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Audit: Lawrence County ESC Spent $93K of Charter School’s Funds in Error
Columbus – The Lawrence County Educational Service Center (ESC) and its former treasurer are on the hook for almost $93,000 in ESC expenses that it paid with the funds of a now-shuttered charter school that it sponsored.
An audit of the Lawrence County Academy, which closed in June 2017, revealed that former Treasurer Teresa Lawless used the school’s funds on several occasions to pay for ESC salaries, benefits and other costs during fiscal year 2014. Lawless was treasurer of both the ESC and the academy.
“These findings don’t surprise me given this treasurer’s problematic history at the ESC,” Auditor Yost said. “As we continue to unravel the tangled mess she left behind, I expect that additional findings may come to light.”
The financial audit released today reports that Lawless charged $86,153 to the academy’s bank accounts for the salaries and benefits of two ESC employees who never worked at the school. She also charged the academy $5,978 for some of her own benefits, but the amount should have been covered by the ESC.
Other improper charges to the academy included a $775 payment to a consulting company hired by the ESC and a $1,500 payment to the Lawrence County Schools Council of Governments (COG). The ESC is the financial manager of the COG.
Auditors issued a $92,906 findings for recovery against the ESC for the amount owed to the academy. A separate finding was issued against the Lawrence County Schools COG for the $1,500 payment it received from the academy in error.
Because the academy is closed, repayment is owed to the Ohio Department of Education. Lawless and her bonding company are jointly liable for both findings.
A special audit of the ESC released in May 2017 named Lawless responsible for billing errors and misspending that cost the ESC more than $38,000. She was also cited for accepting $169,674 in questionable performance incentive payments.
In November 2015, incomplete financial records landed the academy on the Auditor’s “unauditable” list.
A full copy of this report is available online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,900 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.