The procedures for the handling of school money were breached over a nine-month period during which approximately $10,000 was stolen from Patterson Mill Middle and High School, according to Harford County Public Schools representatives. But school officials would not specify what those policies were, how they may have been changed following the theft, or the extent of any internal disciplinary action.
Harford County Sheriff’s Office representatives told The Dagger that the investigation into the theft of the money had been closed without any charges filed due to “too many questions surrounding employee accessibility [to the money] and a lack of accountability in the handling of the money.”
According to a police report, Harford County Public Schools security chief Bob Benedetto told police Oct. 20 that a combination of cash and personal checks collected by the school between Dec. 9, 2009 and Sept. 16 could not be accounted for. The missing money came from the cash box for money taken at various sports games, and from a deposit for other school activities.
Benedetto had first conducted an internal investigation involving multiple persons at the school, the police report stated. He told police that the school’s vault, where cash boxes are located, had been re-keyed, with the only new key issued to Patterson Mill Principal Wayne Thibeault.
The Dagger posed the following questions to Kranefeld on the evening of Tuesday, July 19 after learning that the investigation into the theft had been closed:
– Does HCPS have protocols for handling cash and were those protocols followed at PMMHS during the period when the theft occurred (Dec 2009 – Sept 2010)?
– There are reports that the principal did not report the loss – who at Patterson Mill discovered the loss and who first reported it to central office? (if not by name, then by position).
– The loss is believed to have occurred sometime over a nine-month period, why wasn’t it discovered and reported immediately?
– Who is responsible for the oversight of funds at a school and will there be any disciplinary action taken independent of the criminal investigation?
– Could you send a copy of the written protocols in place at the time of the thefts?
Kranefeld was in contact over the next several days, explaining that her efforts to gather the answers were hindered as key administration officials were out on vacation, and that some information was not legally releasable. Finally, on Friday, she sent the following response on behalf of Harford County Public Schools:
As you are aware, with any situation involving personnel, I am limited by law with respect to releasing detailed information regarding an incident. However, our investigation of the missing money at Patterson Mill Middle-High School is complete and our findings are consistent with that of the criminal investigation conducted by the Harford County Sheriff’s Department. The results of the investigation did not identify any one person as responsible for the theft of the money. Our policies and procedures regarding the management of school activity funds were breached and we are working with those individuals involved to identify areas for tighter controls. In addition, we have taken appropriate corrective action with regard to individuals who may have been involved in breaching those policies and procedures.
Multiple subsequent requests for clarification and further detail in the week since The Dagger received that statement went unacknowledged by Kranefeld.
Sources from several Harford County schools told The Dagger that they followed certain protocols for handling money, which varied depending on the school. But they said that the principal at each school was ultimately responsible for the oversight of school funds.
The organization has given the silent treatment not just to members of the media but also to members of the school community, including Rob Keesling, president of the Patterson Mill Athletic Boosters.
“What’s Harford County Public Schools going to do about it now? You obviously have a gross mismanagement of the money at that school,” Keesling said upon being told of the end of the investigation. “Are they just going to stick their heads in the sand?”
Keesling sent a letter in June to Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Tomback asking for details of the incident and who had been held accountable for the loss of the money, but has yet to receive a response. Last week, a Facebook group was formed by another parent of a PMMHS student to seek the same answers, with an organizational meeting planned for the near future.