Prince George's County schools changes policy on reporting waste, fraud cases following FOX 5 report

Prince George's County Public Schools has announced a change in its policy following an exclusive report by FOX 5 questioning why police were not notified of hundreds of thousands of dollars that were missing or unaccounted for over the last few years.

According to records obtained by FOX 5, in some instances, staff members were suspected of stealing money, yet school officials say law enforcement was not notified and instead cases were handled internally.

Following FOX 5's Lindsay Watts' report Thursday evening, Prince George's County Public Schools Interim CEO Dr. Monica Goldson sent an email to the school's community with a subject line that read, "Restoring the Public Trust."

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"A recent media report detailed PGCPS' long-standing challenges with missing school funds and other abuse of resources. The reports have raised questions on the best course of action for holding wrongdoers accountable and ensuring PGCPS employees understand the consequences for these serious actions," Goldson's email reads in part. "With this in mind, I am referring all cases of missing funds and alleged fraud dating back to 2015 to the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office for review and possible prosecution. Moving forward, PGCPS will coordinate with law enforcement on any waste, fraud and abuse cases within the system."

"Our students deserve every dollar and every resource available to ensure their success, both inside and outside of the classroom. One dollar taken away from our schools due to waste or fraud is one dollar too many," Goldson wrote.

An internal audit shows that in 2014, nearly $14,000 went missing from the student activities fund at Crossland High School. According to the report, "it appears that the bookkeeper defrauded Crossland High School." A school spokesman says the bookkeeper agreed to pay back the money and is no longer an employee, but confirms police were not involved.

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At Central High School in 2016, auditors investigating alleged theft from school sporting events say they found over $4,700 missing. They said staff responsible for the gate receipts should pay restitution.

In 2017 at Central, auditors say about $3,700 raised through school football program fundraisers also disappeared.

At Fort Washington Forest Elementary in 2017, auditors say a bookkeeper was responsible for $3,300 of missing money and was responsible for paying restitution.

RELATED: Interim PGCPS CEO Dr. Monica Goldson promises accountability, transparency

And at Gwynn Park High School, auditors discovered in 2017 that a staff member operated a youth basketball camp at the school for 11 years and never paid facility fees. While not a suspected theft case, auditors say the school district lost out on half a million dollars from those unpaid fees.

Internal auditors compiled a list of all the missing funds cases from the last three school years (to include the case at Crossland), and the total figure was over $800,000.

Christian Rhodes, chief-of-staff for Goldson, says in cases where fault was found by an employee, the district sought full repayment of funds.

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"This included garnishing employee pay or final payout if the employee was terminated," said Rhodes.

But Prince George's County School Board Member Edward Burroughs said restitution wasn't enough.

"If you have stolen money from our students, simply paying the money back after we've already caught you is not sufficient," Burroughs said. "I think it's important that we prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law to send a message to everyone that we will not allow you to steal from our students."

D.C., Fairfax County and Montgomery County public schools say they turn over suspected theft cases to law enforcement.