Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Prudent Precautions

Posted by bsflag2007 on Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wanna see some real verbal fireworks? Just suggest that people with less than pure hearts intentionally seek jobs or positions of “assumed credibility” in places like schools, churches, police or the military – or that it is prudent to monitor ALL the folks who access our children through the schools… including other parents, office staff, teachers, various workers, recruiters, clergy, police …. everyone. No one can be assumed so safe as to waive good sense.

How dare you! Shame on you! These people are all heroes! Driven by a single-minded philanthropic mission to serve, educate, protect …. not a bad one in the bunch ….

and yet, time and time again we are faced with proof that the occasional bad apple does, in fact, get through.

Most child abuse, sexual and otherwise, is committed by people known and trusted by the child/family. Priests, dance instructors, karate instructors, and military recruiters have been convicted of molesting children. And that friendly school secretary who makes you sign in and put on a little sticker badge has been known to embezzle money from the kiddie funds…. sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the past couple of years alone Howard County and our neighboring counties have had a number of embezzlers in their school offices. A quick glance at local papers for the past week tells a sad tale of school secretaries who have been convicted recently of “embezzling nearly $10,000 from school activity funds”… “more than $200,000 in school funds”… “stealing nearly $20,000 in funds from school accounts.”

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. According to a Baltimore SUN article, “The average organization loses about 5 percent of its total revenue to employee fraud, said Mike Stephens, an assurance partner and auditor with the accounting firm Clifton Gunderson LLP.”

School systems are considering proposed changes to what were pretty “elementary” lapses in reasonable money handling protocols, including a “new Web site that would allow club advisers and teachers to monitor their balances.”

Former BOE candidate Allen Dyer has been calling for this kind of user friendly technological application for a few years now. Dyer suggests all financial transactions of the school system be open to community review on such a web site. Maybe that is not such a wild idea.

With a half billion dollar per year budget, 5% losses due to fraud would be around …. ? $25,000,000? OK, that sounds pretty high… but even half that — heck, 5% of that 5% would be over $1,000,000.

That would buy a lot of books.

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