Columbus – “Girls weekends” in Chicago, sightseeing tours through California and Europe, and a trip to Boston to see Oprah prompted today’s indictments of the superintendent and treasurer of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA). Both were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office, unauthorized use of property, tampering with evidence and tampering with records. The indictments’ allegations total more than $148,000 in stolen taxpayer dollars.
“The audacity of these school officials is appalling,” Auditor Yost said. “The good work by our auditors and investigators has built the strongest possible case to ensure they can never use the public treasury as their personal travel account again.”
Today’s indictment includes nine of the most egregious of the more than 20 trips that Superintendent Dr. Lisa Hamm took with staff and family members. Some were for training purposes, but the rest were for “best practice visits.” Most trips tacked on an extra five to ten days beyond the approved training days and spent funds beyond the amounts approved by the board. Stephanie Millard, the school’s contracted treasurer, paid each month’s credit card bills without the knowledge of board members.
Among Hamm’s trips is a $20,000, 10-day tour through California, which included a rental car with a hired driver, as well as countless extravagant meals and hotel stays above and beyond what was required for her training in San Diego. On another occasion, Hamm was supposed to make visits to Chicago charter schools, but instead attended a Tina Turner concert with other female school employees. Hamm also coordinated a trip to Boston for the school’s administrative staff to see Oprah Winfrey. In addition, she took sightseeing tours of Europe with staff members when the purpose of her trip was to fulfill residency requirements for her doctorate program through Walden University.
The Auditor of State’s office received an anonymous tip in November 2006 alleging credit card abuse by Hamm. The complaint was forwarded to the independent auditing firm conducting the school’s 2006 audit. Upon the firm’s review, auditors forwarded documentation to support questionable credit card expenditures to the Auditor of State’s office.
A review of transactions prompted the Auditor of State’s office to initiate a special audit on December 22, 2009, which reviews information from July 1, 2006 through May 31, 2010. The special audit’s scope initially included credit card charges and CCPA payments and was expanded to include a review of non-payroll expenditures for payments unrelated to school operations, as well as a review of certain employees’ compensation to ensure payments were in accordance with board-approved amounts. The special audit is ongoing.
Hamm and Millard were indicted today by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.