Following an unsolved felony theft that occurred at Patterson Mill Middle/High School over a nine month period ending September 2010, parent volunteers yesterday discovered a stack of twenty dollar bills in an unlocked cash box left inside the school’s indoor concession stand.
Patterson Mill Athletic Boosters Vice-President Colin Mitchell said the concession stand was locked before he and Booster President Rob Keesling entered by key and found the cash, but that in addition to the athletic boosters the room was used by the custodial staff and physical education department, all of whom have keys. Mitchell said the cash box was labeled with a post-it note marked “PE” and that gym uniforms were being stored in the concession stand for sale by the school.
Mitchell told The Dagger that he and Keesling went into the concession stand on Wednesday to get some supplies when they found the cash box with the key in the lock, sitting on a desk near the door. Also on the desk were a check that appeared to be made out to the school and a form marked “School Funds Deposit Form”. Mitchell said he opened the box and found the cash inside.
[Note: The Dagger has obscured a visible name and address on a check in one of the photographs]
In light of the earlier felony theft at the school, Mitchell said when he saw the money he thought, “nothing’s changed.”
“Any faith that I could possibly have in the administration of the school is just gone. There is no accountability for money at that school. All I’m asking is just to lock the money up,” Mitchell said, adding “there needs to be a major change in the administration of the school.” Asked who he was referring to in the administration, Mitchell said he was speaking about the school principal, Wayne Thibeault.
Case Closed on Felony Theft
A six-month investigation into the theft of more than $10,000 in cash from Patterson Mill Middle/High School in Bel Air was closed in July with no charges filed or prosecution of any suspects planned.
The Harford County State’s Attorney’s office declined to prosecute due to “too many questions surrounding employee accessibility [to the money] and a lack of accountability in the handling of the money,” Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Monica Worrell said at the time.
The missing money came from the cash box for money taken at various sports games, and from a deposit for other school activities. HCPS officials re-keyed the school vault in response to the theft and gave the only new key to Principal Thibeault.
Patterson Mill Athletic Booster President Rob Keesling, who discovered the cash box yesterday along with Mitchell, 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.
Following news in July that the case had been closed, The Dagger posed several questions to school officials about the oversight of school funds, most of which remain unanswered. Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS acknowledged that procedures had been breached, but has thus far not responded to a request for a copy of those procedures. Below is Kranefeld’s response at the time on behalf of HCPS:
“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.”