Embezzlement leaves paper trail

Posted in: News
By Tinker Hruby
Jan 10, 2013 - 9:46:58 AM

KIMBERLY DAWN BROWNAfter months of investigating, continuances and mounds of paperwork, the embezzlement case against Kimberly Dawn Brown of Marlow finally saw its first day in court Tuesday for her preliminary hearing. At the end of the day, the case was continued and the judge will decide if enough evidence was presented to bind Brown over for trial.
In May 2012, District Attorney Jason Hicks filed 17 charges of embezzlement against former Bray-Doyle encumbrance clerk Brown alleging she used the Bray-Doyle employee Christmas account for personal use. The 17 charges total just under $20,000 in missing funds, however Hicks stated additional charges are pending. Investigator Justin Scott said the records show the total amount missing is closer to $280,000.
According to testimony from former school superintendent Kevin McKinnley, the employee Christmas account was established in 1999 as a way for employees to withhold money from their regular paychecks. The money would be placed, with other employee’s money, into a savings account at a local bank. In December, the money would be paid out, in one payment, including prorated interest, to each participant.
McKinley stated current employees and any future employees were told about the Christmas account and the employee would inform the school’s encumbrance clerk (Brown) if they wanted to participate and how much to have withdrawn from each check. At the time the account was opened, McKinley stated he talked with a state auditor who told him “because it was the employee’s money, it would not be audited.”
McKinley stated he and Brown were the only names on the signature card at the bank for the account and the information was not included during regular audits of the school’s finances, however the school’s tax identification number was listed on the account.
McKinley stated the account should “zero out at the end of the calendar year,” with employees having to withdraw all of their deposits, plus earned interest.
During cross exam, McKinley stated he oversaw all school receipts but admitted “I fell short on the Christmas account. If I had it to change, it wouldn’t happen again.”
“I should have raised questions, but I didn’t,” McKinnley said when the issue of taxes being paid on the account were raised.
After McKinnley left, the current superintendent David Eads took over and was not informed about the Christmas account. Details of the account were unknown until a new audit was performed and discrepancies were found on purchase orders.
“The treasurer discovered altered purchase orders then excessive amounts added to them that didn’t match up to the warrant,” Eads explained.
According to testimony by Eads, numerous purchase orders had been altered from what records show the school board approved. And while the school’s bills were being paid, extra funds were being transferred from the school’s general fund into the employee Christmas fund then taken by Brown for her own personal use.
Eads commented, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career. You can’t remove any money from the general fund without board approval. Here, employees were illegally paid because monthly warrants were not approved each month by the board.” He continued, “Brown did not have authority to move any money from the general fund.”
Eads was critical of McKinnley saying, “He (McKinnley) was her (Brown’s) supervisor and there were a lot of money orders being drawn from the Christmas account prior to December.”
After a lunch break, Hicks called the defendant’s daughter to the stand and asked how several payments for her college tuition were made, how she paid for her car when she bought it and how she paid when it was in an accident. The daughter stated she received the money from her mother but did not know where it came from.
Hicks then called several local business owners with whom Brown had done business and asked how the bills were paid. Each time the answer was “with a money order.”
Hicks presented page after page to the chief financial officer of the bank holding the Christmas account showing the alleged withdraws from the Christmas account by Brown and the purchases of money orders matching amounts withdrawn from the Christmas account. Each money order was endorsed like a check with the depositor’s account information written on the back of each money order.
Brown resigned her position in October 2011 in a letter read by Eads, which simply read, “I resign my position at Bray-Doyle schools.” According to minutes from a nearly four-hour special meeting in October 2011, Eads disclosed that Brown was given the option “to request a hearing, but she chose to resign.”
Stephens County, Special District Judge, Jerry Herberger will issue his decision on March 7.

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