You Paid for It
Quest Academy audit sparks emergency action
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Charter schools get a treasure trove of tax dollars to provide alternatives for Nevada students.
But the administration of one school has been acting like pirates... raiding the school's stash of money for personal gain.
It's a story Darcy Spears first broke in November and now the school's board is finally taking action.
What would a school need with a Nintendo DSi? Accessories for the Call of Duty video game? A lava lamp?
That's just the tip of the iceberg-sized amount of stuff you paid for with tax dollars that are supposed to educate students at Quest Academy.
"That tax money is to educate children. It's not to line people's pockets," says former Quest employee and parent Kelly Miller.
Contact 13 began reporting on Quest in November amid allegations from Miller and other parents and staff about misuse of school money.
Though the State Public Charter School Authority investigated the allegations and found evidence of fiscal malfeasance and abuse of authority, the Quest governing board hired a private auditor to investigate further.
Almost $270,000 tax dollars are in question.
Contact 13 obtained the just-released forensic audit of Quest's finances.
And though their own auditor said many documents were not provided in a timely manner or not provided at all, he had enough to make findings that deeply concerned the board.
"It's everything we've been saying," Miller says. They found exactly what we have said, and so I feel very validated that they actually did their jobs and I'm very proud of the board."
Some of the report centers around Quest Principal Connie Jordan and $15,000 she took in June 2011. The auditor found her explanations for that money are bogus.
Then, there were the credit card purchases.
"There were several transactions that I discovered in the finances that concerned me," said former Quest Financial Manager Lucretia Glidewell in November, 2012. "Various things that just really made me uncomfortable."
The auditor was uncomfortable with a lot of stuff you paid for.
In October, 2011, Quest credit cards show more than $4,300 in travel expenses and more than $500 at Walmart for three Kindles, food items and gift cards.
On Connie Jordan's card in November 2011, he found more than $1200 spent on meals, postage, travel, gift cards, a frame, food and tools.
And Jordan spent $5600 more of your tax dollars. At Barnes and Noble she bought eight Nooks and Nook accessories.
At Best Buy: DVDs, a Nintendo DSi and two Turtle Beach Call of Duty video game headsets.
At Walmart: a blu-ray player, movies, clothes, board games, music, Wii games and a lava lamp.
And guess when she bought all that stuff? In December of 2011.
"I just wonder how many Christmases the school funded," Miller says.
The auditor also found tens of thousands in irregular payments to Jordan and several other school administrators: checks that circumvented the normal payroll process and the board.
The auditor says those checks may indicate that Jordan forced a few employees to kickback money to her from their paychecks.
"Anybody who goes into education knows that they're there not to be rich, they're there to make a difference in a child's life and that is the saddest thing about this whole situation is the people who really suffer are these children," Miller points out.
Reacting to the auditor's findings, the Quest board took emergency action Monday to secure and protect the school.
They took away Principal Jordan's ability to hire and fire, and froze all of her access to school money.
"There's so much more to the story than even the money," Miller says.
Indeed, there is much more.
New allegations surfaced Monday in the emergency meeting.
The Quest board placed a female high school administrator on paid leave due to what they called "extremely serious allegations" of "inappropriate conduct" between her and one or more members of the school's basketball team.
Neither Ms. Jordan nor the board returned my calls or emails for comment. But the board will be taking further action in meetings next week, and Contact 13 will be there.