published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Red Bank PTA finances draw scrutiny

The Hamilton County Department of Education is investigating the financial books of Red Bank Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association.

Christie Jordan, Hamilton County’s director of accounting and budgeting, said her department is looking into purchases and payments made on the PTA’s bank account this school year after school officials reported irregularities to her office.

She said she wouldn’t discuss details until the investigation is completed. Once that’s done, she said, the findings will be turned over to the school as well as the Hamilton County Council of PTAs.

The Red Bank PTA has had financial problems in the past that led to a former school principal being arrested on theft charges.

PTA officials aren’t commenting on the situation but said financial oversight measures are in place to safeguard against possible fraud.

Red Bank Elementary PTA President Deejay Mizzell said she was told not to comment on the matter.

“All I can tell you is it’s a mountain-out-of-a-molehill thing,” said Mizzell, who said she began her post as president in May.

PTA President-elect Dwight Hunter said each school’s PTA is required to complete an annual financial audit, which is submitted to the Tennessee PTA and the Hamilton County Board of Education. Because local PTAs are chartered by the state group, he said, the state organization generally gets involved when financial questions arise.

Officials said school employees have no access to PTA funds, which are under the control of officers elected by the organization’s members.

“PTA money does not get funneled through the school and does not get touched by the schools because it’s a separate nonprofit organization,” Hunter said.

Former Red Bank Elementary Principal Deborah Foster and custodian Mary Lynn Dugger were arrested on theft charges in 2007 after a 2005 audit showed more than $17,000 was missing or had been spent without documentation between 2002 and 2004.

In February 2008, Foster was put on eight years’ probation and ordered to pay $9,724 in restitution. Dugger received four years’ probation and was ordered to pay $4,800 in restitution, according to newspaper archives.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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