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.



Prosecutor Says Brewer Was Driving 80 And Was High On Meth At Time Of Horrific Wreck At Ooltewah Exit; Defense Says There Is No Evidence Of Intoxication

A prosecutor on Monday told a Criminal Court jury from Nashville that Benjamin Scott Brewer was driving 80 mph, was high on meth and never hit his brakes when he caused an horrific wreck on June 25, 2015, at the Ooltewah exit of I-75. Crystle Carrior asked the jury to find Brewer guilty of six counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, four counts of reckless aggravated assault, ... (click for more)

Erlanger Finance Committee Approves Takeover Of Murphy, N.C. Hospital

The finance committee of the Erlanger Health Center board on Monday approved the takeover of a hospital in Murphy, N.C. The measure involving Murphy Medical Center goes before the full board on Thursday night. Hospital officials said the Murphy facility with eight physicians and some 400 employees is current at a break-even status. Erlanger President Kevin Spiegel said ... (click for more)

General Bell: This Government Shutdown Is Outrageous - And Response (2)

The day before yesterday two Army Apache Attack Helicopter pilots were killed in a crash during training at Fort Irwin, Ca.  The pilots and their unit were preparing for a future deployment to combat operations.    As a result of the government shutdown, none of the spouses or families of these pilots will receive a dime from the United States Government in immediate ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Rebranding & ‘Culture’

My grandfather, who ran several very successful businesses, was a very astute fellow. I can’t tell you how many times he said, “The worst thing any salesman who calls on a business can say is, ‘I am here to save you some money.’ That’s not true -- In every instance they are in front of you hoping to make some money for themselves, else they would have never come by.” Another ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Mississippi State Too Tough For Lady Vols

KNOXVILLE --  A tough week for the Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team got just a little bit tougher on Sunday afternoon here at Thompson-Boling Arena. With the season’s largest crowd of 13,436 fans and a national television audience watching, the sixth-ranked Lady Vols were hoping to get a little redemption after blowing a big lead and losing at fifth-ranked Notre Dame on ... (click for more)

Heights Boys, Girls Team Post Solid Victories On Saturday

Hamilton Heights’ girls defeated host Mercy Academy in a cakewalk, 75-35, to wrap up their impressive effort in the Raatz/O’Shea’s Classic in Louisville, Kentucky. The Lady Hawks (18-2) were led by Elizabeth Balogun’s 19 points and Treasure Hunt added 16 points. Esmery Martinez had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kamilla Cardosa scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Jazmine ... (click for more)