A former business manager at the Western Arizona Vocational Education District was indicted recently by the Arizona State Grand Jury for allegedly stealing money from the district.
Deborah Long, 43, of Kingman, faces one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices, one count of misuse of public monies and five counts of theft, totaling seven felony charges.
According to a press release from Arizona’s Office of the Attorney General, she’s accused of issuing warrants to herself and to her credit card companies, keeping payments made by parents and others to the district, making personal purchases with WAVE credit cards and increasing her salary without authorization between Nov. 2011 and Aug. 2016. The total loss equaled $139,284, the press release states.
“Once we found out, we did everything that we could from terminating the employee to working with the auditor general to make sure that we were doing things correctly,” said WAVE Superintendent Amy West. “Since then, we’ve made the improvements that we needed to make so that we can try to prevent this from happening again.”
WAVE provides career and technical education to high school students in Mohave and La Paz counties. When the district opened in 2009, Long was hired as an administrative assistant and then later promoted to business manager a year later, according to a report from the Arizona Office of the Auditor General.
West, who was named superintendent in 2015, said Long’s alleged misconduct was discovered during a biennial audit for fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
“When the auditors showed up to do that audit, this employee didn’t show up cause she knew that there were going to be things that we found so that very day we basically started combing through things that the auditor had discovered and we contacted the auditor general,” she said.
The auditor general’s report states that “Long did not come to work but wrote an email to the superintendent stating in part, ‘I committed fraud . . . that’s why I’ve been so afraid of this audit.’ She was reportedly terminated about a month later in Sept. 2016.
West said the alleged the misconduct was not caught during previous audits. According to the auditor general’s report, Long may have falsified information in WAVE’s accounting software and governing board packets to conceal her actions.
The report also states that “WAVE officials failed to provide adequate oversight and maintain effective internal controls.”
“Long was able to manage most of WAVE’s financial activity without any independent oversight. She collected check and cash payments; made deposits; recorded payroll, revenue, and expenditure transactions in WAVE’s accounting software; issued warrants; received credit card statements; performed credit card reconciliations; and prepared expense voucher packets for governing board approval,” the report states.
West says the district has since implemented internal controls based on the auditor general’s findings to ensure similar events do not occur in the future. Specifically, the auditor general’s report states, WAVE now requires their superintendent to review payroll and expenditure transactions after recorded by its new business manager and only the superintendent has access to a credit card account, the receipts for which are reviewed by the new business manager.
“We’re still in great financial shape,” said West. “We pass through dollars to our partner districts in Havasu, Kingman, Bullhead City and Parker, we pay tuition and fees at the college, we have a little campus in Havasu, we were able to do a lot of positive things over the years…so it (the alleged misconduct) really didn’t have a major impact on what we were able to do for the students.”