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General Chappie James Leadership Academy Special Audit Results in $1.1 Million Finding
Columbus – Officials at the now-closed General Chappie James Leadership Academy (Montgomery County) padded their attendance rolls by nearly 50 percent, according to a special audit released in a press conference today by Auditor of State Dave Yost. Findings for recovery total more than $1.1 million.
“It’s no mistake when your attendance records are off by nearly half,” Auditor Yost said. “These findings illustrate the need for meaningful charter school reform, and I appreciate the efforts of Senator Lehner, Representative Hayes, Representative Dovilla and Representative Roegner.”
On March 6, 2014, the Auditor of State’s office learned of allegations that the academy may have been illegally inflating its attendance number to receive money from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for students who did not attend the academy. Due to the deceptive nature of the alleged conduct and concern that records may be destroyed, the Auditor of State’s office and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on April 14, 2014 for all attendance records. The information was reviewed by the Auditor of State’s Special Audit Task Force on July 2, 2014, and a special audit was subsequently launched. The special audit reviewed records for the period of July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2014.
Auditors discovered the academy reported attendance levels of 459 students; however for 220 of those students, documentation could not be produced to prove the students actually attended the academy during the period for which it received funding. Several students were claimed for multiple years -- indicating fraud and not simple bookkeeping errors. The majority of students had initially enrolled in the academy, but had not attended in several years, or in some cases, enrolled but never attended.
In order to verify audit findings, auditors and investigators attempted to interview 141 students and/or their parents/guardians to determine if the academy’s documentation supported the attendance numbers reported to ODE. Attempts to contact students and their families resulted in 30 interviews and 3 additional interviews with academy staff. In addition, the search warrant yielded approximately 80 boxes of records, and the Auditor of State’s office also issued 11 subpoenas for various additional records.
ODE was provided with the list of students identified as not in attendance and calculated the overpayment of state funds. A finding for recovery in the amount of $1,179,879 was issued against Academy Director Kecia Williams in favor of ODE.
The findings in this special audit have been turned over to the Montgomery County Prosecutor for consideration of criminal charges.
A full copy of this special audit may be accessed online.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,800 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.