Superintendent on embezzlement: bills paid, moving forward

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As shocking as events of the past couple of weeks have been, Switzerland County School Superintendent Tracy Caddell wants to make sure that the community is assured that there is no financial problem with the schools.

“We’re not broke. We’re paying all of our bills on time,” Tracy Caddell said. “Everything is up to date. We will continue to pursue getting the taxpayers’ money back, but I want to make sure that everyone knows that we’re not broke.”

Since it was discovered that former corporation treasurer Ann Geyman apparently took as much as $1 million from school funds, many rumors have been swirling through the community:

– “Summer School was canceled because of the missing money”. The superintendent said that the cancellation of summer school offerings is due to the state legislature cutting state funding to school corporations for summer school. He said that nearly all superintendents in this area are cutting summer school programs because of the lack of state funding.

“We are offering some credit classes for kids who need them to graduate,” Tracy Caddell said. “And we will probably have some sort of pre-kindergarten program, also.”

– “Students didn’t get to take field trips this year because of the missing money.” The superintendent said that this is a situation that has been going on for the past three to four years, as the state has eliminated transportation money going to schools. Since that time, the administration has required that each building pay the costs of field trip transportation.

“We’ve had field trips all year long,” Tracy Caddell said.

The superintendent said that the school corporation does pay the transportation costs for athletics, music, and academic competitions.

– “Teacher retirement funds weren’t paid.” Tracy Caddell said that he hasn’t found any evidence that retirement funds haven’t been paid into various programs because of the funding situation.

“I’ve heard that,” Tracy Caddell said. “We are checking with the Teacher Retirement Fund and PERF (Public Employees Retirement Fund). We have found one situation with one employee in the Teacher Retirement Fund, but that is completely unrelated to this issue. We have also found two teachers with problems with their VALIC accounts, but that’s also unrelated. That’s all being fixed by the insurance companies.”

– “Bills haven’t been paid.” The superintendent said that school officials are meeting individually with vendors to make sure that all bills are up to date. He said that officials have found no problems with unpaid bills.

– “Endowment money is missing.” Tracy Caddell said that most of the misappropriations took place through the school’s payroll accounts. He said that there were no “dummy vendors” or “paper corporations” set up to funnel money through.

“We can’t find anything like that at all,” he said.

As to the endowment funds, which are provided to the school corporation through riverboat revenue sharing funds and are administered by the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation, Tracy Caddell said that those funds are not school corporation funds, and that the school cannot access them because they are held in a separate account through the endowment corporation, which has its own treasurer.

“Kenny Griffin and Tom Conroy have served as the two treasurers of the endowment corporation and have done a tremendous job with those funds,” the superintendent said. “We have no control over them at all, so none of the money in question came from the endowment.”

– “How does a person steal $1 million and no one sees it?” Tracy Caddell said the money has been taken over a period of five years, and represents about 1 1/2-percent of the money that has flowed through school accounts since 2003, when things began.

He said that the Indiana State Board of Accounts conducted an audit in 2005 and found nothing relating to this matter in terms of misappropriation of funds; and that the audit going on now uncovered the situation along with the assistance of school officials.

“We’re not placing any blame, but this was a very carefully crafted process,” Tracy Caddell said.

As to how the superintendent himself never saw anything inappropriate, in a letter to the school corporation employees, Tracy Caddell took the matter head on.

“…I know many people are asking, ‘how could the superintendent not know?’,” the superintendent wrote. “From a technical sense I believe that the question will be greatly answered in the audit. From a practical standpoint, I ask myself that question multiple times a day. I do not have an answer for that. I take responsibility for not knowing and I can only assure you at this point that the school corporation, including the board of trustees and myself, will continue to work everyday on bringing those misappropriated funds back to the children and taxpayers of Switzerland County.”

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What’s next?

Tracy Caddell said that the school corporation will continue to move forward while every avenue is pursued to get the taxpayers’ money back.

“We’re going to continue to keep going,” he said. “We are concentrating on our civil lawsuits as well as working with the insurance companies on collecting on the bonds, which could range from $100,000 to $500,000. We are going to keep everyone informed on all of these issues.”