A Burbank Unified School District clerical employee was arrested this week on suspicion of embezzling thousands of dollars in cash from a district-wide after school program.
The district will press charges against the woman, who allegedly stole more than $10,000 from the “Around the Bell” program, a districtwide after-school child development program.
The employee held a clerical position within the Child Development Department. Among her responsibilities were the depositing of cash and paid fees, and she allegedly used her position to routinely pocket portions of the cash collected for child care.
“The Burbank Unified School District is committed to fiscal transparency and open, direct communication with our stakeholders,” wrote Superintendent John Paramo in an email to district stakeholders. “To uphold these priorities, we share that the district recently had to take swift and decisive actions to address a case of alleged embezzlement involving a district office clerical employee who worked in the Child Development department. The theft was restricted to the collection of fees in the Around the Bell after-school program and did not impact any other district programs.”
On Oct. 26, district staff detected suspicious activity regarding the cash collected from parent fees for the after-school programs, according to Paramo.
By the next day, the employee suspected of the misappropriation of funds was identified, confessed to the crime and resigned from her employment, the district said in a statement. District administration contacted the Burbank Police Department to report the crime, and police made an arrest on Oct. 30.
The district has said that it also conducted an extensive internal investigation that identified more than $10,000 missing. Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Andrew Cantwell told the Leader that the suspect allegedly stole the funds by skimming cash fees collected from parents for the program.
“BUSD will bring in a forensic auditor later this month to confirm the full extent of the loss. The district will work with its insurance company and the alleged perpetrator to recover the stolen money,” Paramo said.
As to the scope of the theft, it was restricted to cash fees connected with the Around the Bell program.
“Burbank Unified enjoys a wonderful partnership with multiple local organizations that run after-school programs on our school campuses. BUSD does not collect fees on behalf of any of those third parties, so the scope of theft was limited to the BUSD-run after-school programs, Around the Bell,” Cantwell told the Leader.
The district pointed out that there are areas of improvement for tracking cash receipts and deposits in the after-school programs, which will be implemented following the investigation.
The district is now working on transitioning to a cashless payment system, Cantwell said. In the interim, the district has adopted new procedures for cash transactions, which include new safes, procedures for counting and depositing, increased supervision, tracking payments through software, and new standards for issuing receipts.
“A detailed monthly report will be submitted to budget at the end of each month detailing all cash deposits for the month. Attached to the report will be software activity reports confirming payments received and copies of the cash count forms submitted with each deposit. All report numbers should match the total amounts of each weekly deposit and activity sheets,” Cantwell said.
The new procedures will be in place until the department transitions to a cashless system.
“We are deeply saddened and outraged by this breach of trust, and we apologize to our staff, parents and the community for this unfortunate situation. We are committed to ensuring the integrity and accountability of our district,” said Paramo.
First published in the November 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.