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June 21, 2013

IU IV Audit: Authorities to probe more than $70,000 in ‘questionable’ spending

NEW CASTLE — Auditors say $71,466 of Cecelia H. Yauger’s school credit card expenses were not for business reasons.

At a special meeting Wednesday, the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV’s board of directors learned the results of a forensic audit done by Hill, Barth and King of Hermitage. The audit was for usage of the IU IV-issued American Express credit card in Yauger’s possession, as executive director, from 2007 through February this year, after it was discovered she had been spending what was considered to be unusual amounts of money.

The board voted 8-0 Wednesday to approve the forensic audit report, with plans to send it immediately to the Grove City police, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Education Certification Bureau.

“The consensus of this board is that they want this thoroughly investigated and vigorously prosecuted by the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” IU IV solicitor Timothy McNickle said.

The auditors, using receipts and explanations from staff, deduced that of the total $113,755 spent, $42,290 was for business. The rest was categorized as “questionable or undocumented.”

Susan Cyphert, manager of Hill Barth and King, explained that for costs listed as legitimate, “we felt pretty confident these were business expenses. If we didn’t know if it was a business expense, we put it in the other column.”

Cyphert said she conferred with IU IV officials and learned that several recurring Verizon charges were for Internet access for cyberschool.

The auditors look at what days were weekends and when Yauger had vacation time or days off, she said. They also sorted the same listed expenses by days of the week, months, vendor names, city and state.

The expenses, under each business name, showed total sums of some of the larger amounts spent as: $4,390 at Target, $11,309 at Wal-Mart, $2,484 at Wendell August Forge, $2,197 at Pat Catan’s, $2,379 at Rite Aid, $2,748 at Grove City Country Market and $9,731 at Costco. All were listed in the undocumented/questionable category.

The board’s audit approval carried the stipulation that the auditors still must provide totals and itemized lists of expense bills from February 2008 and February 2009 that were not included in the report. Cyphert told the board those months had been disregarded because they were not among the bills they had received to audit.

Jessica Phillips, a supervisor at the accounting firm, said there were fewer than 20 receipts to go with all the credit card bills.

McNickle noted he had asked Yauger several times for receipts and “she said she would go home and look for them, but she was unable to produce any of them.”

“That $71,000 is way too high,” Gene Tempesta, Yauger’s Pittsburgh-based legal counsel, commented Thursday. “I believe all of it was legitimate business expense. The question now becomes, how can we go back and find the record that shows that? That’s my task.”

The matter caught the board’s attention when a Pittsburgh law firm requested copies of credit card statements.

Yauger resigned April 24 and signed a written agreement saying she will pay restitution to the IU IV in an amount the board determines she owes for all claims arising out of her access to and improper or unauthorized use of its resources, property or funds.

McNickle said those bills not definitively listed as justified business expenses will become part of the total considered for restitution.

 

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