Saturday, September 6, 2014

You Won't Believe This! But Credit Card Statements and Photos Don't Lie!

Several things were discovered this week that are probably going to upset the Fox C-6 taxpayers and parents even more!

It turns out that former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown (Critchlow) made quite a few purchases using her district credit card to purchase items / equipment for her own personal use even though they were paid for with taxpayer dollars.

UPDATED 1:20PM: Mr. Brazeal provide me with updated information at 12:19PM from Angela Baker. The information related to any wedding ceremonies in Florida was incorrect. This article has been updated and the incorrect information has been removed. The June 2013 trip to Orlando Florida that Dan and Angela Baker took was related to the Marzano Conference in Orlando from June 19-21, 2013. My apologies to the Bakers for my mistake.

Critchlow Purchased Items for Personal Use
Former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow turned in receipts for items she purchased for the school district using her school district VISA card. However,  many of those items have been found at her home and were being used for her own personal use rather than being used as intended for school business.

One of the items located and recently recovered from her home just this past Friday, September 5, 2014 was a Nikon 1 Digital Camera. She purchased the camera using her school district VISA card on December 13, 2011 at the TARGET store in Arnold. It's hard to believe that a superintendent making more than $1000 per day would be out doing technology shopping for the district. But apparently she found the time to do so as she was "putting our money into the classroom". It's too bad that it actually ended up in her home rather than the classroom.

The $674.90 TARGET charge on December 13, 2011 stood out while I was reviewing the VISA card statements this past Monday. I flagged it as a charge to look into.

As it turns out, Dianne Critchlow made several large purchases just prior to her daughter's wedding on Saturday December 17, 2011. As someone told me the other day, you just can't make this stuff up it is so unbelievable. Of course, I verified the information from Facebook postings, tweets and photos that I found online before writing about it here. And yes, it was very easy to find and verify.

A coworker of mine told me a few months ago when all the stories about Fox C-6 began hitting the news that he had attended Critchlow's daughter's wedding back in 2011. So when I saw the credit card charges from back then I checked with him to see if he remembered when her daughter's wedding took place. He said the wedding was right before Christmas 2011. The weekend before Christmas that year was December 17, 2011.

After seeing some unusual charges from around that time on Dianne Critchlow's VISA card statement, I sent over several questionable charges to Fox's new CFO John Brazeal and asked him if he had receipts for the purchases in question.

"TECH FUNDS" Was Written On Receipts For Camera
Mr. Brazeal responded with detailed information from the receipts in question. He informed me that the December 13, 2011 charge at TARGET was for a Nikon 1 digital camera and a LEXAR SDHC memory card. That purchase totaled $674.90. The Nikon 1 camera cost $599.99 and the memory card cost $22.99. Mr. Brazeal stated that one of the common themes of Dianne Critchlow's purchases was that she typically paid state sales tax even though the district is exempt from paying sales tax. The amount of sales tax paid on that charge was $51.92.

There was another charge at TARGET on Thursday December 15, 2011 for a Nikon 1 Lens and another Nikon 1 accessory as well as spare batteries and another memory card. The total amount of that purchase was $146.15 and the amount of sales tax paid was $11.24.

According to Mr. Brazeal both of the receipts had "TECH FUNDS" written on them.

After questioning these charges and informing Mr. Brazeal that the charges were made right before Dianne's daughter's wedding, Mr. Brazeal sent an email to Dianne Critchlow asking her where the camera was. It turns out that that the Nikon 1 digital camera was at her house. The camera was recovered by the school district on Friday September 5, 2014.

According to Mr. Brazeal there have been a number of items that had already been recovered from the Critchlow's home as they've been preparing for the audit and reviewing credit card charges and receipts which Dianne's attorney Chet Pleban made a Sunshine Request for when he sent the Mr. Brazeal a Cease and Desist Letter.

Mr. Brazeal told me that earlier this week the district had picked up some chains, logging tongs and other items purchased by Dianne Critchlow on her VISA card for hauling trees. The items were still in the packaging and had not been used. The items were at the Critchlow's home and had to be recovered from their home by a two person team and brought back to the school. There was also some softball equipment as well. Of course that equipment could have easily been used by any school in the district but it had to be recovered from her home as well.

It's becoming quite clear that not only were purchases made using district credit cards by our superintendents that weren't "Instructional Materials" which is all that is allowed to be purchased using district credit cards according to current district policies. But, items were purchased using taxpayer money that were used for personal use rather than school use.

The auditors will be very busy documenting all of this during his review of the district. Now that the public is aware of this we would expect to see some references to this in the state audit when it is released to the public.

Very Serious Problems!
Our community should be very concerned about what's transpired over the last 9+ years after discovering that this has happened numerous times. Not only was former superintendent Dianne Critchlow earning the 3rd highest superintendent salary in the state when she retired, but she was purchasing items using taxpayer dollars and using them for her own personal use even though receipts were turned into the school district as a school purchase.

Hopefully the state auditor will be extremely thorough so as much money and items can be recovered as possible after all that's been discovered in the last month since the school district's credit card statements were obtained via Sunshine Request.

How Could This Have Happened?
Cheryl Hermann is probably still wondering how all of this could have happened still after all of the controls that were put in place by the district after the last state audit in 2002. Cheryl, it was your job to be checking these things for the last 15 years. You were part of the problem for not doing your job as a school board member to verify bill payments and credit card purchases.

Cheryl needs to step down from her position a school board member especially after everyone recently learned that her daughter was just hired into the district as a Teacher's Aide while all of this has been going on. It was not a smart move to hire her daughter and reflect poorly on the current situation.

A National District of Character?
This sort of behavior does not reflect well for a district that was always being touted everywhere as a National District of Character.

I never thought that I would find out that things were this bad in our district and how corrupt and arrogant some of our Central Office administrators had become. I'm also amazed as to how they thought they would get away with this and never get caught.

It is going to take a very long time for our school district and the community to recover from the damage done by a few individuals in our school district.

I certainly hope and believe that it will be a very long time before someone in our school district tries to do what a few individuals have done to embarrass our school district, our community and themselves.