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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

Audit says checks not backed by receipts

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - An audit of a Toledo charter school shut down last year because of poor test scores and record-keeping found more than $8,800 in checks written by the school s director that couldn t be backed up with receipts.

The final-year audit, to be released by State Auditor Betty Montgomery today, cites 10 instances in which Gwen Wilson, director of the Village Shule charter school, wrote $8,835 in checks to herself or to others for which supporting documentation couldn t be found.

Ms. Wilson insisted yesterday that receipts for the expenditures were on file in June, 2002, when the school was shut down and its records were turned over to its sponsor, the Lucas County Educational Service Center.

“If I d known all this was going to come back to me, I never would have walked away and just turned everything over,” she said. “That was the time to deal with all of it. Things were not in my control after that.”

The K-6 school, in SeaGate Centre and the former Macomber High School, had 270 students at the time it closed. The school mixed dance, drama, music, and other arts with basics such as reading and mathematics.

“Unfortunately, when a community school such as this does not employ sound financial controls, it s not just the taxpayers who are cheated,” Ms. Montgomery said. “Families are left with no other option but to move their children from school to school, depriving them of consistency and stability - two factors that play critical roles in academic success.”

Her office said the audit will be referred to the county prosecutor s office for potential action.

“One of the difficulties we had when we went in was we couldn t find inventory, we couldn t find records,” said Tom Baker, superintendent of the Educational Service Center. “That plays into why we shut them down. The responsibility is with Gwen Wilson, not Lucas County. She s going to have to work with the state auditor and rectify those findings.”

In a letter to auditors, Carter Wilson, Mrs. Wilson s husband and a member of the Village Shule board, disputed the findings. “Every expenditure was legal,” Mr. Wilson wrote. “Every item purchased can be verified.”

The audit said the school ended its final fiscal year on June 30, 2002, with a deficit of $5,014. The audit seeks to recover $5,467 in checks the director wrote to herself. They included $2,000 for the school to buy back at auction the “Hopscotch Happiness” frog the school created for the city s “It s Reigning Frogs” campaign.

The school s bid failed, but the audit claims there is no record of the $2,000 being returned. Ms. Wilson said all but a nominal fee for entering the auction was returned.

Undocumented expenses included $1,200 for a video camera that wasn t among the school s equipment. “Between us leaving and Lucas County coming in, some things disappeared,” Ms. Wilson said. “When I asked auditors to compare that to the end-of-the-year inventory, they said, What inventory?”



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