According to a story by Brian M. Rosenthal and Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times, Seattle Police are investigating after a Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) investigation discovered a possible misuse of funds at Van Asselt Elementary School by the former principal and by a parent coordinator. (See the investigation report here.) The principal, ElDoris Turner, retired on March 16 after being placed on administrative leave, and the parent coordinator, Ramona Fuentes, was fired on Tuesday.
The SEEC investigation, acquired by the Times via a public records request, found that more than $30,000 in cash was withdrawn from an unauthorized school bank account maintained by Turner and Fuentes, and that “the documentation supporting these withdrawals is woefully inadequate.” Additionally, the SEEC found that Turner received payments for the use of Van Asselt’s gym, and “has not been able to document the amount of the payments or how they were used.” Those payments did not go to the school district, counter to district policy.
The investigation, according to the SEEC report, began when some parents and teachers at the school on South Beacon Hill began the process of creating a Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). They asked Turner about funds the school had earned through fundraisers, and where those funds went. Turner replied that Fuentes controlled the money. Parents expressed concerns about the use and storage of cash at Van Asselt. Some said they had seen a bag of money in the office safe and a shoebox of cash in Turner’s office. Staff members stated that funds from a talent show and from a gift basket fundraiser were unaccounted for.
The SEEC report states that “Turner and Fuentes kept terrible records of the money that flowed into and out of the Account. Bank statements provide very limited information on the account activity, since many withdrawals were in cash” (emphasis is in the original SEEC document — ed.). Checks on the account did appear to be for legitimate school purposes. But the report concludes “The SEEC cannot rule out the possibility that some of these funds were converted to personal use” and recommends that the school district involve law enforcement for further investigation.