School officials say PTA account opened without permission

The principal of Willis Foreman Elementary School and its PTA president are questioning a bank account set up by the chapter’s treasurer last May and several transactions made over the summer when school was closed.

Principal Brenda Taylor said she did not authorize Monique Braswell to open a new Fifth Third Bank account for the school’s PTA after Braswell became interim treasurer in April. Taylor also said she did not find out about the change until school began in August, and that the PTA has traditionally used Southern Bank in Hephzibah for its account.

Braswell, who also serves as president of the Richmond County Council of PTAs, signed about $3,500 in checks to pay for bookbags, council dues, fundraising candy and bills between June and July, which she said is normal activity for a PTA.

She also said Taylor directed her to open the account to prevent the 2011-12 school year PTA president and vice president from accessing the account after they were removed from their positions in April.

“(Taylor) told us to close the old account they had and that they wanted it at a new bank,” Braswell said.

Taylor said she is questioning the transactions made over the summer because they were never approved by the PTA executive board, and the school typically does not have any PTA activity when school is closed.

“By that time, you have wrapped up everything you need to do for school anyway and everything should be shut down,” Taylor said. “Typically you go from August to May. ... When school is out, nothing happens for PTA at a school.”

Willis Foreman parent Baine Flournoy was elected PTA president in November and said he requested account statements from Fifth-Third in February after Georgia PTA notified the school was not in good standing for not having submitted a 2011-12 audit, current membership dues or information.

Flournoy said he and Taylor reviewed charges made over the summer: $432 to Y-Ties company, $2,010 to a chocolate company, $200 to Murphey Middle School PTA, $500 for bookbags to the Richmond County Council of PTAs, and about $400 in council dues and registration.

Braswell said the charges are legitimate and paid for past-due bills to the chocolate and Y-Ties companies, a refund to Murphey for candy bought from the school, money for a county-wide bookbag drive and dues and registration owed to the PTA council.

There was also a $1,400 cash withdrawal made July 27. Braswell said this was “an honest mistake” when she withdrew money from the wrong account for a district-wide event. After realizing the mistake, Braswell deposited the $1,400 back into the account July 30, bank statements obtained by The Augusta Chronicle show.

Braswell removed Flournoy and PTA secretary Felicia Burley from the bank account’s access card in early February after Flournoy submitted a letter of resignation Jan. 25 on behalf of himself, Burley and vice president Lori Smith.

Flournoy said he should still be on the account because he rescinded his resignation Jan. 26 after Taylor asked him to stay and informed him the resignation did not apply to the other board members because their signatures were not included.

Because Braswell’s is now the only name on the account, the school cannot access any of the roughly $4,400 to pay for an end-of-year field day and honors banquet for students.

Superintendent Frank Roberson requested the Georgia PTA investigate the finances and practices of the Willis Foreman chapter, and a review is scheduled for Wednesday.

Braswell said she knows the legitimacy of her actions will be proven after the investigation is completed.

Taylor and Flournoy said the investigation will prove them right.

Richmond County superintendent asks Georgia PTA to investigate Willis Foreman Elementary funds

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