Former Bookkeeper In Marion County Took More Than $35,000 From Whitwell High School

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The former bookkeeper at Whitwell High School in Marion County pocketed at least $35,332 in cash collected for school activities, an investigation by the comptroller’s office has found. 

Lois Vandergriff, the former bookkeeper, used several methods to conceal the theft of the money, officials said.  These included exchanging checks collected from school activities to replace some of the missing cash and providing false and inconsistent information to school staff, administrators and auditors.

Investigators from the comptroller’s office shared their findings with the local district attorney general. Earlier this year, the Marion County Grand Jury indicted Vandergriff on one count of theft over $10,000 and one count of vandalism.

Investigators also learned that Vandergriff had issued school checks totaling more than $5,977 to herself, with documentation on purchases for only $2,700 of that amount. The documented expenses included a number of questionable items such as dog food, dog treats, cigarettes and soft drinks. Investigators could not determine if the documented purchases were for legitimate school needs. 

Vandergriff also issued $902.42 in checks to her son, ostensibly for yard work and reimbursement for items purchased on behalf of the school. Investigators couldn’t determine if all of those expenses were for the school’s benefit.

The investigative report, which was released Tuesday, outlined other concerns about the school’s money-handling and recordkeeping practices.

Vandergriff was allowed to handle all aspects of financial transactions, from receiving money to keeping accounting records to depositing money in the bank. Best practices in accounting suggest that those duties be divided among multiple employees so those employees can check each other’s work. said officials. 

Also, school faculty members didn’t keep accurate and complete records of the money they were turning over to the bookkeeper following events, said officials.

School officials indicated they have made changes that address the deficiencies highlighted by investigators. 

“Fraud, waste or abuse of public money is never acceptable, but it’s particularly troublesome when that money would have benefited schoolchildren,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I’m encouraged that school officials are taking steps to correct the problems we identified. That should reduce the chances of something like this happening there again.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the comptroller’s hot line at 800.232-5454 or fill out a report online at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/shared/safwa.asp.


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: BATES, AMY LYNN 5924 PORTER DR HARRISON, 37341 29 Chattanooga DRUGS GENERAL CATEGORY FOR RESALE POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA THEFT OF PROPERTY BOWLING, JERMICHAEL DEJUAN 5400 CENTRAL AVENUE CHATTANOOGA, 37404 34 Chattanooga Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) BRYSON, ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: Halloween On Raccoon Trail

A Vote For Education Is Critical In Tennessee

In a state where just 28 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math and 33 percent are proficient in reading according to national assessments, education is deserving of more attention in 2014 elections. Across the country, more parents are making informed decisions about their child’s education, but for Volunteer State parents without resources, choices are difficult to come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Garden In November

As the first day of November arrives today, it is cold enough in my garden to officially certify that fall has fell! There are even signs of ice on the ground but there is a bounty crop of acorns so, in keeping with our monthly tradition, some will get shiny acorns and others will get a chunk of cold ice: A SHINY ACORN for Patriots football coach Bill Belichick for scoffing at ... (click for more)

GPS Advances To Division IIAA Soccer Championship

MURFREESBORO - GPS defeated Brentwood Academy 3-0 to advance to the finals of the TSSAA Division II-AA soccer tournament.   The Bruisers scored one first half goal in the 38th minute off the foot of senior Lindsay Rufolo.   Fourteen minutes into the second half Emily Large added the first of two insurance goals. Six minutes later at the 60-minute mark Catherine ... (click for more)

Hixson Clinches 6-AA Title With Shutout Over Brainerd

Just about any coach will tell you that winning ugly is always better than winning pretty. Such was the case at Hixson Community Stadium on a frigid Halloween night as the host Wildcats finished off their regular season with a 19-0 win over the Brainerd Panthers. Hixson improves to 8-2 overall and 6-0 in District 6-AA while Brainerd is now 3-7 overall and 3-3 in 6-AA. It ... (click for more)