The Dayton Early College Academy group has a middle school in downtown Dayton, a high school near the University of Dayton and an elementary school in the Five Oaks neighborhood. JEREMY KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: STAFF / JEREMY KELLEY
Photo: STAFF / JEREMY KELLEY

State audit cites ex-DECA charter school worker for illegal spending

State auditors have issued a demand for recovery of illegally spent public money against Cynthia Shoemaker, a former employee of the Dayton Early College Academy charter schools.

The finding for recovery of $1,573, part of a 2016-17 state audit released Tuesday, is a follow-up to Shoemaker’s conviction on fourth-degree felony theft charges earlier in 2018, first reported by the Dayton Daily News.

The state audit only cites two improper reimbursement checks totaling $1,573 from 2015 while Shoemaker was an assistant to the school treasurer. But in a court counter-claim, the school claimed Shoemaker made improper transactions on school credit cards totaling $41,780.35.

The fourth-degree theft charge that Shoemaker pleaded no contest to applies to thefts ranging from $7,500 to $150,000. She was sentenced to five years of probation, $500 restitution and a prohibition against working any job handling cash or finances.

DECA Assistant Superintendent David Taylor said in July that the school filed a claim with its insurance company, which paid the claim to restore lost taxpayer dollars. In the audit, the school’s listed a “corrective action plan.”

“The Academy implemented a document trail and has implemented checks and balances to ensure proper processing and filing of fiscal documentation,” the school response said. “Purchasing Agent approves each (purchase order) and then Fiscal Office reviews and files accordingly.”

State auditor Dave Yost, who has become more involved in charter school oversight recently after previous criticism of his office’s work, issued a statement about the DECA case.

“Dayton Early College Academy is one of the bright, shining stars of Ohio’s charter schools,” Yost said. “It acted properly, and this single bad actor should not detract from DECA’s significant accomplishments.”

The state’s new audit for 2016-17 also found instances of “material weakness” in how grant money was reported, how building costs were stated and how asset totals were adjusted, plus a finding of “noncompliance” for overstating expenditures in school breakfast and lunch programs.

DECA Prep’s previous audit, for 2015-16, included a finding for recovery of $4,489 that the school overpaid a teacher who used maternity leave in 2015-16.

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