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Riverwood Audit Shows Several Areas of Concern

On Tuesday, Fulton County Schools said no crime was committed.

The audit report of Riverwood High School, which led to the shows several areas of concern.

On Tuesday, Samantha Evans, executive director of Communications for Fulton County Schools told Patch that there was no embezzlement, and no criminal charges were being brought against Echols. 

“Embezzlement would imply a financial loss to the school,” she said. “There was no financial loss to the school.”

The period in question from the audit is June 2008 to July 2009.

The report said Echols used a school American Express Card for personal use and later reimbursed the school, at least in part. The auditor could not be certain because a detailed list of the reimbursed items was not provided by Echols.

According to the report, bookkeeping revealed expenditures in the Principal Expense Account that exceeded the limit by $6,185.35. It was recorded in a way that the account appeared to be over the limit by $86.31.

The report showed delays of up to nine days in the recording of gate receipts for athletic events. Receipts were recorded by the bookkeeper in the school’s receipt book after deposits appeared on bank statements.

The auditor found that four receipts for football totaling $19,618 were not recorded properly on the next day, as required by regulations.

For basketball, gate receipts totaling $3,318 were not recorded properly on the next business day.

The auditor wrote, “These deficiencies render assets more susceptible to loss or fraud.”

When it came to school donations, no documents were obtained confirming the purpose of the funds received. At least $38,110 was received through nine donations, in which it could not be verified if the funds were used according to donors' wishes.

The report found seven Student Activity Fund accounts with negative balances totaling $4,896, as of June 2009. The auditor did not say the balances were inaccurate.

He wrote, “The principal should not approve purchase requisitions or write checks from SAF accounts unless there are sufficient funds to prevent SAF accounts from resulting in a negative account balance.”

On Tuesday, Evans added, “At this point there has been no indication that there [was] any financial loss to the school. This is more about not following board policy. Not following policy of how funds should be used.”

Dennis Kostulakos will serve as interim principal at Riverwood. 

Echols had been the school principal since 2002 and was hired by Fulton County Schools in 1987, as a math teacher at Roswell High School.

Last week, it was announced that are among the highest in Georgia.

Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
@DaisyDoodle Yes, it sure sounds like the bookkeeper was negligent...probably ought to discipline that bookkeeper. And, yes, the principal is ultimately responsible, as he is indeed the "captain of the ship" so to speak...but is removing an otherwise very good principal--one who has been excellent for the school (based on the school's track record and performance history under him)--is removing that guy justified in this circumstance? Because just like he is "responsible" for the negligent actions of his staff, he is "responsible" for the successes of the school; even if he wasn't necessarily personally responsible for the excellence of the school overall, he certainly was responsible for putting the people in place that have made that school as great as it is. I think the specifics of this impropriety aren't as bad as Echols leadership has been good... (continued...)
Riverwood supporter September 21, 2011 at 07:52 PM
... Unless there is reason to think there was collusion between Echols and the bookkeeper, and reason to believe that some money was in fact missing--and I would imagine if there could be any reasonable suspicion that money was in fact stolen, that there would be charges filed...remember, *not knowing* whether money was taken or not is very different from having reasonable suspicion that money was in fact taken, and law enforcement would be expected to pursue a reasonable suspicion--then I think forcing Echols to resign over it is quite an overreaction...*especially* considering the track record of the school under Echols. One can only expect that a sudden, jarring incident like removing a principal a few weeks into a new school year, and a hasty replacement under duress, will not likely lead to a better overall school environment. Maybe they could have figured out a better way to address this sort of an accounting issue that's not quite so ham-handedly, like they're trying to use a bulldozer to open your mailbox.
DaiseyDoodle September 21, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Well, call me a silly girl, but if a 37 page Audit that reflects complete and utter loss of abiility to balance the books, and an 8 page investigtive report that has the Principal admitting that he applied, used and kept using an (illegal American Express Card), and then the Fulton School Board Auditor goes on to say "we are not sure what we do or dont know", becuase Echols said he "cant find" the statements isnt severe enough for some, I understand. The Audit could be best summed up in a quote by John Dean "there was a cancer growing on Riverwood". They cut it off. Now we can fix the mess left behind.
Bob September 21, 2011 at 10:12 PM
No evidence of embezzlement. No evidence of missing funds. Sloppy record keeping, yes. That is not enough to warrant this kind of action. Still waiting to see the body before agreeing there is evidence of a crime.
Denise Champion December 12, 2011 at 10:08 PM
One correction......it was a son's rehearsal rather than a daughter's. Still an overreaction in the total scheme of things. Echols will be sorely missed. Wait and see.

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