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

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANDERSON, KEVIN MICHAEL  1056 PINEVILLE ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37405  Age at Arrest: 34 years old Arresting Agency:  VIOLATION OF ORDER OF PROTECTION OR RESTRAINING OR --- BALTIMORE, MICHAEL JUNIOR  3217 6TH AVE CHATTANOOGA, 374071536  Age at Arrest: 59 years old Arresting Agency: ... (click for more)

Severe Storms Rake Chattanooga Area; Flash Flooding Possible

Severe storms raked through the Chattanooga area on Saturday. Sale Creek was one of the hardest hit areas. Storm damage on Cooper Road included two crushed cars. Trees were on homes and railroad tracks that are the main line between Chattanooga and Cincinnati. Cooper Road is near Lake Chickamauga. There was also damage along Providence Road at Sale Creek. ... (click for more)

No Tax-Supported Entity Should Get Secrecy In Spending

A shadowy situation has emerged in Chattanooga with an organization that manages millions of taxpayer dollars with no transparency and such a surprising disregard for accountability that one wonders what it would take to wake up elected officials who are supposedly in charge. Welcome to the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose lawyer threatened to sue the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Is Dr. Edwards The One?

Just hours after the chairman of the Hamilton County School Board emailed a list of 14 candidates on Friday afternoon to be considered as the next Superintendent of the 42,000-student system to the other board members, Dr. Nakia Edwards, an Assistant Commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Education, became the early “common sense” favorite. And, at first glance, she has ... (click for more)

Lookouts Double Header Cancelled Sunday Due To Heavy Rains

The Lookouts have announced that Sunday's(4/23) double-header has been postponed due to inclement weather, unplayable field conditions and impending forecast.   The team will make up these contests as part of two double headers, one  on Monday  and one  on Tuesday .  Both double headers will start at  5:15 p.m.  and will consist of ... (click for more)

UTC Track Completes In War Eagle Invitational

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga sophomore Haley Morris (Lenoir City, Tenn.) topped her personal best in the women’s 3000 meter Steeplechase over the weekend at the War Eagle Invitational.   Morris finished fourth in the steeplechase with a time of 11:48.74, edging her previous top time set in the finals of the 2016 Southern Conference championships.   Also ... (click for more)