Auditor Burrage finds more bad news in Butner
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Published: 10-May-2010

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 10-May-2010

Editor’s Note: This story is adapted from a release received this afternoon (Monday, May 10) from the auditor and inspector’s office in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage today released the investigative audit of the Butner School District located in Seminole County.

Requested by the Oklahoma Department of Education, the audit spans the period of July 1, 2005 through February 28, 2009, and details the alleged embezzlement of more than $41,000 in cash by former encumbrance clerk June Billie.

The report also questions the expenditure of another $46,655 paid out on six district credit cards. A large number of purchasing records had not been maintained by the schools. In most instances, when the records were available, the itemized documentation didn’t match payment.

“To be blunt, the records and supporting documentation for this school district were a mess,” said State Auditor Steve Burrage. “The clerk was writing herself checks and then altering the computer record and the cancelled check to reflect payment was made to a vendor. Payments for gas cards and other school credit cards didn’t match invoices. With such poor documentation, we’ll probably never know what, if any, charges were legitimate expenses of the school district.”

Annual audits of Butner Schools performed by an independent auditor repeatedly concluded the district’s accounting records were incomplete or inaccurate. Each annual audit, in effect, provided a warning to the school board that the district’s financial records were unreliable.

“Now this district had problems, no doubt about it,” Burrage said. “We believe the former clerk manipulated her coworkers and district records to conceal her fraudulent activities. She reportedly told the district’s treasurer to inflate balance figures given to board members and she replaced computer-generated reports with hand-written reports.”

Billie is facing felony embezzlement and document forgery charges in Seminole County related to $27,136.24 in checks she allegedly wrote to herself. The third felony count alleges Billie and her daughter, Saundra Billie, used a school gas card to make fraudulent charges totaling $5,821.92.

“I hope this audit will be another lesson for anyone serving on a school board,” Burrage said. “No one in a position of governance should just be a rubber stamp. It doesn’t appear anyone in Butner was questioning the administrative staff or the independent auditor about obvious problems and discrepancies in the district’s records. If you serve in a position of governance, you must be vigilant on behalf of the taxpayers. Ask questions and keep asking them until you’re satisfied with the answer.”

Although comparatively smaller in scale than other recent school funding scandals, the fresh insights into the Butner district’s problems are the latest jolt to confidence in public school finance practices. The Butner audit is the third in a promised series of six investigative audits from Burrage’s office.

Other recent investigative audits focused on Skiatook, and most prominently on Broken Arrow. CapitolBeatOK has detailed the unfolding scandal in Broken Arrow in a series of stories.
 
By last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had joined the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the offices of the Oklahoma Attorney General and the Auditor and Inspector in the Broken Arrow probe.

Still to come are the conclusions from investigative audits focused on Wagoner, Boynton and Seminole.

A copy of the investigative audit focused on Butner public schools is available at www.sai.ok.gov.

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