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Published: Tuesday, 9/16/2008

Clyde-Green Springs school executive s resignation accepted

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Helms Helms
HANDOUT; NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

CLYDE, Ohio The Clyde-Green Springs Exempted Village school board last night unanimously accepted the resignation of Superintendent Todd Helms, who board President Tom Conley said is being investigated for embezzling more than $26,000 from the school district since 2005.

The board also said Mr. Helms, a married father of three, violated district policies by using a district computer to engage in an inappropriate, personal, and sexual relationship with a woman in Florida.

This is a shocking development, attorney Michael J. Loughman said at the meeting, speaking on behalf of board members. You just don t expect your superintendent of schools to do these kinds of things.

Clyde police, state auditor s office, FBI, and U.S. postal inspectors began investigating Mr. Helms and the district s financess in late July after district Treasurer Alan Binger received an unusual purchase order meant for Mr. Helms that was sent from GTR Enterprises, which turned out to be a fictitious company.

Mr. Loughman said Mr. Helms created the fictitious firm and since 2005 had been ordering fictitious repair parts, supplies, and services from the company, signing his own purchase orders indicating he d received the parts, and sending checks from the school district to pay for the parts to GTR s undisclosed bank account.

He then signed with a bank to receive the money on behalf of GTR, Mr. Loughman said.

He d receive a check for the money and then use that money for his personal use, Mr. Loughman said.

School board members don t know what Mr. Helms did with the money.

Part of it was he was picking areas where the school district was doing construction, so it seemed like a normal invoice, Mr. Loughman said. They ve had a number of building projects going on in the past few years.

When Mr. Binger received the suspicious purchase order July 26, he asked the district s maintenance supervisor about the parts ordered.

When the supervisor said he never requested the parts, Mr. Binger dug up all the records of transactions between the district and GTR Enterprises, all of which were conducted by Mr. Helms.

The maintenance supervisor said he d never requested any of the parts ordered by the former superintendent.

I ve been doing this for 35 years, Mr. Loughman said. This is the first time in my career I ve ever seen such a scheme developed to defraud the school district of money.

Using hindsight, I guess it s easy to say, Why didn t someone [catch] this? ... You hire people thinking they re honest.

As part of their investigation, authorities seized and searched Mr. Helms school computer. That s when they found e-mails and semi-nude photos sent between Mr. Helms and the woman in Florida, Mr. Loughman said.

The board had planned to fire Mr. Helms, but he submitted a letter of resignation Sept. 8.

Mr. Loughman said the board plans to sue Mr. Helms for the money he is accused of stealing and to recoup the salary he received while on paid administrative leave.

The Blade called Mr. Helms residence seeking comment. A woman who answered said, No one s home tonight, and hung up.

Clyde police Chief Bruce Gower said Mr. Helms has not been arrested or charged with anything, and his department is awaiting the outcome of the state auditor s investigation.

The FBI is involved because of jurisdictional issues. There are purchases that involve things outside of the school district, he said.

State Auditor Mary Taylor s office began a special audit of the school district July 28 at the request of school administrators. Prior to last night s meeting, a spokesman for the auditor s office declined comment until the audit is complete.

Assistant Superintendent Gregg Elchert will remain acting superintendent until a permanent replacement is found, Mr. Loughman said. The school board will meet again Sept. 22.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:calcorn@theblade.comor 419-724-6168.



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