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September 17, 2013

Police say Yauger wrote of guilt, confessions

NEW CASTLE — The former IU IV executive director allegedly wrote on her office computer about her guilt over her credit card misuse.

Cecelia H. Yauger, 55, of Grove City, is facing felony charges of theft and unauthorized access device fraud. She was charged and arrested Friday by Grove City police, following allegations by the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV that she had many improper expenditures on her agency-issued credit card that were for questionable or undocumented purchases.

Timothy McNickle, IU IV’s solicitor, said Monday the final total amount the unit is claiming is $72,477, based on reports of an audit conducted by Hill Barth and King of Hermitage this year.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Grove City police, Yauger had created a word document titled “Talking to God” on her work computer. The 118-page document details Yauger’s thoughts and her guilt in the matter, and she made numerous admissions, police allege.

“The more I face reality the more I know I was wrong. The evidence is there. I have to own it and move on,” she allegedly wrote.

According to police, she also wrote, “My bad decisions have finally buried me,” and “I feel like a thief or criminal in hiding because I am,” and “I used the card for the wrong reasons. I know it. I did it.”

Yauger had been presented with a right-to-know request from a Pittsburgh law firm for her use of the American Express credit card issued to her by the intermediate unit, according to police.

On March 19, she reportedly sent a letter to McNickle and the IU IV board of directors, saying, “I am guilty of making poor decisions and choices when it comes to accounting for and engaging in work-related expenditures.”

She also allegedly wrote there are items on the credit card bills that are “personal,” and that she had fallen “into bad practice of convenience.”

On April 12, Yauger signed a binding, six-page resignation, agreeing to make restitution. She resigned from the IU IV director’s post April 24.

The reimbursement amount was to be determined by Hill, Barth & King, which had conducted the formal audit. The firm gave its report to the board of directors June 19, when the board voted to send the audit results to the Grove City police.

The audit examined credit card statements, purchase orders, Yauger’s calendar and schedule of work events to determine whether undocumented expenses were possibly work-related. The findings show her undocumented or questionable expenses total $72,477 between 2007 and April 30, 2013.

“I think the reason this is an issue is because there’s an allegation that there was an absence of receipts,” Yauger’s attorney, Eugene P. Tempesta, said Monday. “But an absence of receipts does not make something illegal. I believe that we can show that expenses were work-related.

“There may be some that we may not be able to show, nor can anyone show they were non-work-related because some of them occurred over seven years ago,” Tempesta continued. “Significant time has passed and that could be an issue.”

The board and its solicitor had determined the bills not definitively listed as justified business expenses will be included in the total amount expected for restitution.

Yauger waived her right to a preliminary hearing. At her preliminary arraignment, District Judge D. Neil McEwen set an usecured bond of $10,000. That means she is free, but must pay the bond if she fails to show for court.

Her formal arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 12 in Mercer County court.

The board of directors also had agreed to send the audit results to the FBI, the state inspector general and state’s department of education. McNickle said Monday he does not know the status of those investigations.

Of Yauger’s reputation, Tempesta commented, “I think Cecelia’s 35 years of dedication to the school districts in the various communities and the hundreds of thousands of students that she touched will become apparent when this is completed.”

In August, the IU IV board hired Dr. Wayde Killmeyer as the new executive director of the state agency, which provides support and services to about 27 school districts in Mercer, Lawrence and Butler counties. He formerly had been superintendent of the Clairton School District in Allegheny County.

As a result of the credit card issue, the board has imposed a new whistleblower policy for the intermediate unit employees.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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