News

Gordon PTA finances under review

By KIPP ROBERTSON
and RICHARD WALKER
North Kitsap Herald

KINGSTON — A panel of PTA members conducted a review of Gordon Elementary PTA’s finances Jan. 17, after some discrepancies were alleged.

Cindy Kleinfelter, Washington State PTA director for Region 1, said the review panel’s findings would be forwarded to the local PTA’s board of directors, which would decide the next course of action.

“Until the board of directors can meet and review the findings, there’s not going to be anything to talk about,” she said. “The review could prove nothing is wrong, or that there are irregularities. ‘Irregularities’ is a gray word — you can have an irregularity as far as certain procedures weren’t followed, but there is no missing money. Every review is different.”

She said law enforcement would get involved if there are irregularities and “the board asks to go that direction.”

Kleinfelter last talked to the Herald at about 11 a.m. Jan. 17, as the review was being conducted. Kleinfelter did not return followup phone calls from the Herald by deadline Jan. 30. Gordon PTA President Marta Michalski did not return a phone call nor an email by deadline Jan. 30.

Washington State PTA President Heather Gillette wrote to the Herald the evening of Jan. 29: “… my understanding is that the PTA officers have followed all proper procedures. They contacted their region director and the [Washington State PTA] office with some support questions. They have conducted a financial review.”

Earlier, Kleinfelter said she participated in the review as an observer. The review was conducted in the school’s conference room by two PTA members who are not board members and are not signers on the PTA’s bank account. She said “a few other” PTA members observed the review.

At the time, Kleinfelter said “it’s too early to speculate” whether there are any irregularities. She said the review was being conducted because “it’s time for a mid-year review” and because irregularities may have occurred. Asked how long a review takes, she said, “Depending on how organized the books are, an hour to a couple of hours.”

The financial review followed three resignations within the last two months, one of them not related to the review.

Star Ferrer, a former PTA volunteer, said Jan. 17 she planned to resign at the next board meeting after discovering “discrepancies” in the PTA’s budget reports. The next meeting, Jan. 21, was cancelled, according to the PTA’s Facebook page.

A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the discrepancies are related to gift cards, known as scrip, that are sold for fundraising. The PTA buys the gift cards at a discount rate from a national program, sells them for the full value and keeps the difference. The gift cards can be used for a variety of purchases — including clothing, gas, groceries, housewares, movies — and are reloadable.

School parent Amy Berg said she served for eight years as Gordon PTA volunteer coordinator but resigned two months ago “because of issues with the new principal.” She said the gift cards are kept in a safe in the PTA office at Gordon, and that approximately 15 people knew the combination to the PTA safe in which the gift cards are stored.

The PTA is operated independently from the school. However, the office key is kept in the school office, Berg said, and any PTA member needing access to the office simply asks for the key.

On Jan. 17, Kleinfelter said one PTA board member resigned. Regarding the identity of the board member and his or her position, she said, “I can’t comment on that right now,” but Berg later said her friend Heather Snelson had resigned as board treasurer.

Snelson was listed as treasurer Jan. 17 on the PTA’s webpage. On the same page Jan. 22, there was no treasurer listed and Shelbe Thibeault was listed as co-secretary.

Berg returned the Herald’s phone call placed to Snelson Jan. 29. She said her friend has four children, including a five-month-old baby, and is “spending time with her family, praying that whatever misunderstanding there is is remedied quickly and she can go back and work for the kids like she has for eight years.”

According to Washington State PTA guidelines, “Whenever a PTA has reason to believe there is a problem with its funds there are two basic steps the PTA must take immediately: 1. Conduct a financial review. If the financial review verifies that funds are missing: 2. Call your region director …”

The local PTA board of directors must take “every reasonable step to collect or recover the missing funds,” the guidelines state. At some point, the board must report the missing funds to its membership.

The guidelines also direct PTA members to not, under any circumstance, “seek the advice of the school district, principals, or [prosecuting] attorney; make any public or private statements; or take any action without the approval of the board of directors meeting in a formal session.”

According to the state PTA, its insurance carrier will only reimburse a local PTA for loss if it conducts an annual financial review; a non-signer on the bank account reviews, signs and dates the monthly bank statements; and a police report is filed when money is missing.

 

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