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11:28 AM Mon, Oct. 22nd

Former Topock schools business manager misused $236K

A former business manager of Topock Elementary School District misused more than $236,000 of district money.

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A former business manager of Topock Elementary School District misused more than $236,000 of district money.

TOPOCK – A financial investigation by the state Office of the Auditor General revealed a former business manager of Topock Elementary School District misused more than $236,000 of district money.

The money was allegedly used by the district’s former business manager, her daughter and her business associate for personal expenses including gift cards, home utilities, auto loan payments, home improvements, furniture, baby equipment, fuel and alcohol. The report also states that at the time, district officials did not adequately oversee financial expenses.

The report doesn’t name the employee, but the district’s website and previous board meeting documents identify the business manager as Kimberly J. Konnerth. She and her business associate, who has not been identified, died in February, according to the auditor’s report.

The former business manager had complete control over expenditures and credit card purchases without any oversight, the report states. The superintendent of the district would presign checks, “without always reviewing supporting documentations and sometimes even signed blank checks,” the report states.

The former business manager’s daughter, Sarah Diaz, has since been indicted on 13 felony counts of theft, fraudulent schemes, forgery and theft of a credit card, according to the report. The money the former business manager misused has been reimbursed by the district’s insurance company.

The misuse occurred from Dec. 2008 to July 2013, according to the report.

“(The) former business manager and her daughter made 989 personal credit card purchases totaling $167,518,” the report states.

The Auditor General’s report also states the former business manager withdrew cash and issued nine district checks to herself and her daughter totaling $46,548. That money was deposited to personal bank accounts and used for debt payments, cash withdrawals and retail purchases.

Also, “(The) former business manager issued eight district checks totaling $22,482 to her associate, who paid her $19,837 and kept the remaining $2,645 for himself,” the report states. The associate, who is described as the owner of an information technology company, used that money for personal debt, cash withdrawals and medical expenses, the report went on to state.

The district has since taken steps to prevent future illegal activity by not presigning blank checks, separating finance responsibilities and closing unnecessary bank accounts, according to the report. The Auditor General’s Office further recommended the district prepare receiving reports before goods and services are paid for.

According to the Arizona Rural Schools Association, John Warren has been the superintendent/principal of Topock Elementary School District for 11 years, while the fraudulent activity was occurring.

Both Warren and a representative from the Auditor General’s Office were not available for comment by press time on Tuesday evening.