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TCBA board receives request for forensic audit

PUEBLO — The Charter School Institute of Colorado has asked the state department of education to conduct a formal forensic audit of The Career Building Academy, which is currently utilizing the former Youth and Family Academy (YAFA) charter school in Pueblo. The request came in the wake of a recent financial review that uncovered a number of spending deficiencies by academy leaders involving public funds. Charter School Institute attorney Anthony Dyl sent the request letter to interim Colorado Commissioner of Education Elliott Asp on December 23, 2015. The letter asked for a forensic audio to find out if there was any wrongdoing in spending public monies by TCBA officials. Dyl requested the auditor be selected by the Charter School Institute and Asp by tomorrow, Jan. 8, and the firm selected provide a certified fraud examiner. The attorney also asked the audit be paid for by TCBA. The request for the forensic audit comes after institute officials reviewed financial information from an earlier audit of the academy’s finances and discovered there were improper or no records for some expenditures. The financial information was provided after Asp ordered academy leaders to provide “adequate documentation and access” of financial records and student and teacher attendance records to the institute for review. TCBA officials were required to provide the information within 24 hours of receiving the Nov. 11 order from Asp. Dyl noted CSI received the final piece of information on Dec. 11. TCBA attorney Robert Gardner told the Pueblo Chieftain last week the academy board has received the request and takes it seriously. “We want to emphasize the report does not make any findings of malfeasance or wrongdoing but is an indication that TCBA’s financial policies and procedures need to be improved,” Gardner said. “This is a matter the board has been working on for a couple of months already and

will continue to work on.” The audit request only covers the TCBA facility in Pueblo at this time. Among some of the concerns outlined by Dyl in his letter to Asp were about TCBA’s financials including not having documentation or enough documentation of cash transactions, listed loans with no promissory notes, reimbursement payments to academy founder Rick Johnson signed by Johnson and purchases made at Sam’s Club using a Johnson Plumbing membership card that included more than $300 in personal items. The documentation also included at least 32 banking fees for insufficient funds or extended overdraft fees in three checking accounts, including the Pueblo account and a $12,637 withdrawal from an account via a cashier’s check that included no documentation for its purpose. There also was note of a $10,000 payment to Joy Cress-Morales, academy executive director, listed as a payment for contract services but the supporting documentation showed it as $100,000 loan between TCBA and Cress-Morales. The payment was made to Cress-Morales in September but the promissory commenced Dec. 31, 2012, and was signed by Johnson on Dec. 22, 2014. Cress-Morales did not sign the note. Another concern came with the Sept. 30 payroll, made via a cashier’s check to corporate employees, where the amounts paid to employees were not consistent with the payroll reports. Many employee contracts were not made available and those that were provided were not signed by employees. Gardner said the TCBA board does not want the “growing pains” and difficulties of getting started at the TCBA campus to deter from the work being done there. “The TCBA board and management want to emphasize this is a school that was troubled when TCBA undertook a contract with YAFA and it has grown the school from 50 to in excess of 200 students who are receiving excellent vocational training along with improved academic performance.”