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Former Rockford teacher investigated for mishandling money

By Bob Steenson,

A state audit requested by Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock School District has identified more than $25,000 in improper or unsupported financial actions allegedly taken by a former teacher who was responsible for managing the finances of the RRMR Parent Teacher Organization.

In a statement and a 33-page audit report issued Tuesday, the Iowa Auditor’s Office said that Deb Kadera, a former special education teacher, had allegedly failed to deposit receipts from fundraisers into the PTO accounts and had deposited funds from the PTO account into her own private bank account and an account belonging to her son.

Former Rockford teacher investigated for mishandling money
Deb Kadera

The report identified more than $18,000 that the PTO had collected or earned through various fundraisers that allegedly had never been deposited into the PTO accounts, $3,784 in payments from the PTO accounts that it described as “improper,” and $3,163 in payments from the PTO accounts that it said did not have proper documentation.

The report said Kadera was placed on administrative leave by the school district in January 2019 after discrepancies in the PTO accounts were brought to the administration’s attention. Kadera, who started working at RRMR in 2009, is not listed on a current list of employees for the school district.

The audit report also said results of its investigation had been turned over to the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, the Floyd County Attorney’s Office, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.

Floyd County Attorney Rachel Ginbey told the Press Wednesday that there is currently an open investigation so she is unable to provide any information.

“The investigation is being handled by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office. Any possible charges would be filed by my office,” Ginbey said.

The audit report, signed by Iowa Auditor of State Rob Sand, said Kadera had been responsible for the financial transactions for the PTO and had been responsible for financial transactions for the district’s junior class account.

A situation came to the district’s attention when a former PTO member whose name was still listed on the organization’s bank account was informed that the accounts were overdrawn and reported that to the school administration, the report said.

“On January 4, 2019, the district’s business manager asked Ms. Kadera why no cash collections were remitted to the Business Office for a recently held junior class fundraiser. Ms. Kadera initially stated she only accepted check payments for the fundraiser. The business manager asked Ms. Kadera to provide the supporting documentation showing only check collections,” the report said.

“On January 7, 2019, Ms. Kadera met with the superintendent and stated she had not told district administration about the cash bag kept in her classroom which contained cash from the fundraiser in question because it was missing. Ms. Kadera further stated there was approximately $390 in cash missing, which she would repay,” the report said.

Superintendent Keith Turner immediately notified the district’s attorney of the situation and placed Kadera on leave, the report said.

“The district’s business manager began reviewing the available district records for all junior class fundraisers back to the 2014/2015 school year and identified discrepancies in the collections remitted to the Business Office when compared to the amounts paid to vendors,” the report said.

As a result of the investigation, Kadera turned over bank statements and the PTO checkbook, and also gave the district a handwritten note.

“In the note, Ms. Kadera apologized for not being able to locate the PTO’s receipt bag or the bookkeeping book. She further stated she would repay all reimbursements issued to her and her husband because they were unable to locate these items,” the report said.

A copy of the handwritten note is included in the audit report.

The district contacted the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office regarding the information that had been gathered, and also contacted the office of Auditor of State.

The Sheriff’s Office confiscated Kadera’s district computer and the files kept in her desk at the district. The state Auditor’s Office reviewed the PTO and the school district’s financial records for a period from May 1, 2009, through Jan. 21, 2019, roughly the period of Kadera’s employment with the district.

“The procedures performed identified $18,086.94 of undeposited collections, $3,783.77 of improper disbursements, and $3,162.75 of unsupported disbursements,” the report said.

The undeposited collections identified totaled $3,742.36 from junior class fundraising events and $14,344.58 of from PTO fundraisers, the report said.

The $3,783.77 of improper disbursements identified were from the PTO’s bank account and included $2,405 of transfers to Kadera’s personal bank accounts and $1,258.77 of other payments.

“We also determined Ms. Kadera transferred $2,475 from her personal bank account to the PTO’s bank accounts. In addition, Ms. Kadera issued three checks from her personal bank account totaling $3,745.79 that were deposited in the PTO’s bank account on January 2, 2019,” the report said. “Ms. Kadera provided a written note to a former PTO member that the checks were to repay reimbursements she and her husband received from the PTO.”

As a result of the audit, the state office said the district did not have enough control over the handling of the PTO’s funds and did not ensure that the PTO “was properly organized with adequate independent oversight.”

The Auditor of State Office recommended the district adopt a policy to require Board of Education approval for all fundraising activity and clearly establish when activities are being sponsored by the district or by an outside group, and that it require organizations to segregate financial duties among more than one person so there are checks to make sure money is being handled appropriately.

It also said it should require invoices, receipts, order forms and other documentation for organizations’ accounts, and that each organization have a board that oversees the group’s operations and financial transactions.