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District mishandled missing money case

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By The Staff

No jury will ever hear the case of the missing student government money and unreported staff absences at Indian Land High School.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield recently wrapped up his investigation of the case and concluded that, although something in there stinks, there’s no way to prove just what happened and who might owe what.

The case was first brought to his attention four years ago when former Indian Land High secretary Donna McClennen sent the State Law Enforcement Division hundreds of pages of documentation she compiled regarding the two issues, which she reported to Lancaster County School District in 2002.

McClennen accused a former administrative assistant of using $2,100 in student government funds for personal use and being paid more than $18,000 for days she did not work between 1999 and 2004. She also said that the principal at the time also missed days beyond her allowance and failed to properly document those absences.

McClennen first took her allegations and documentation to the school district and school board, which refused to hear her case, based on a brief presentation by then-Superintendent Dr. Pat Burns. Then she sent the documentation to the school board members. Still, nothing happened. So she sent it all to SLED.

McClennen said she wanted the $2,100 returned to Indian Land High and for the district to recoup the money it paid both employees in unearned wages.

After SLED became involved, the district did an internal investigation, moved the administrative assistant in question to another school and required her to pay back the $2,100. But it did nothing about the unearned wages.

The investigation did reveal that the principal and administrative assistant used an informal comp time system not condoned by official school or district policy and probably were paid for hours they did not work, which Barfield corroborated in his recent report to SLED.

But Barfield said there was not enough evidence to prove in court that the former employees had violated the law.

So that brings the thorny case to a close, although it leaves many questions still unanswered:

n Why did the district let the matter slide until SLED became involved?

n Why didn’t the board follow up on the matter when it first came up in 2002? Wouldn’t it be best to deal with an issue like this in a more timely manner, when there is some hope of restitution?

n Why would a cash-strapped school district want to pay staff that not only isn’t doing its job, but isn’t even coming to work?

n What has the district done to ensure this won’t happen again?

Although none of the employees involved are still with Lancaster County School District, that doesn’t mean the same problem couldn’t crop up somewhere else.

The school district and school board owe it to the taxpayers to see that it doesn’t.