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Published: Tuesday, 12/15/2009

Ex-TPS official, 2 businessmen owe Cleveland schools $181,000

BY MEGHAN GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Burns Burns
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A former Toledo Public Schools administrator and two businessmen owe the Cleveland school district $181,000.

A special audit released Tuesday morning included findings for recovery for $160,200 against Daniel Burns, who has served as the top business official for both Toledo and Cleveland school districts, and John Briggle of Superior Offset Supplies in Toledo.

Mr. Burns, 54, worked for TPS from 1976 until he retired June 30, 2006 as the chief business manager. He then went to work as the chief operating officer for Cleveland Public Schools.

Mr. Burns and the other businessman, Steve Cotner of Corporate Intelligence Consultants in Perrysburg, owe the Cleveland district $20,819.

The total of $181,019 is likely less than what the Toledo audit will reveal, as the auditor's office has previously said the Cleveland theft is "just the tip of the iceberg."

Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor yesterday said she is "not able to discuss the specific dollar amount," but did note reports have said that it is more than $500,000 and did not dispute that number.

"He was at TPS for 30 years, a significantly longer period of time that he was in Cleveland," Ms. Taylor said.

The auditor's office hopes to release the Toledo special audit in January, Ms. Taylor said.

As for the Cleveland audit released Tuesday, it revealed that Mr. Burns paid Superior Offset Supplies $148,500 for equipment the district did not receive and another $11,700 for consulting services related to training for that bogus equipment.

Mr. Burns also initiated payments of $59,607 to Corporate Intelligence Consultants to be used as a retainer, but the company only preformed work for $38,788, according to the audit. The $20,819 finding for recovery is the difference.

The special audit investigated Mr. Burns and his work with the Cleveland district from July 2, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2008.

Mr. Burns was placed on leave Dec. 10 of last year after Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputies raided his office. He resigned five weeks later.

He and Mr. Briggle have been indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury on charges of stealing from the Cleveland district.

Mr. Burns was indicted on one count each of racketeering and theft in office and six counts of tampering with records. If convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison.

Mr. Briggle, 56, is charged with one count each of racketeering and aggravated theft and six counts of tampering with records.

The men are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

The Cleveland theft came to light after an employee told the auditor's office about a suspicious vendor during a normal financial audit last November.

The auditor's office took a look, found irregularities, and the special audit was initiated in December.

The auditor's office immediately then took a look at Toledo because of Mr. Burns' 30 years there, Ms. Taylor said.

The suspicion in Cleveland arouse after a purchase order was sent to Superior Offset Supplies at a Parma address, but the district got a response that the business is not located there.

From that point on, the address on the Superior Offset Supplies bills was changed to a personal residence in Toledo and they were marked "do not mail."

The payments to that company also were not mailed and instead Mr. Burns or his assistant, Shenee McCoy-Gibbons, would personally pick up the checks issued to Superior Offset Supplies.

The special audit recommends the Cleveland district establish a whistle-blower policy and update its ethics policy.

"I am a strong advocate for having a whistle-blower policy because in this case that is exactly what worked," Ms. Taylor said.

The auditor's office also recommends segregation of duties so one person is not responsible for creating the purchase order, making sure the goods and services are received, and then paying the company.

Contact Meghan

Gilbert-Cunningham at:

mcunningham@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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