Originally created 09/23/98

North Augusta ex-principal arrested



NORTH AUGUSTA -- First he resigned, and then he was arrested.

Former North Augusta High School Principal Richard Terlizzi has been charged with embezzlement of public funds and released on bond.

His arrest ends days of speculation and rumors surrounding his sudden resignation Thursday.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Terlizzi surrendered to authorities and was later released on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond.

Since Friday, North Augusta Department of Public Safety had been investigating the misappropriation of $1,000 at the high school.

However, an audit performed by an outside accounting firm stated that it was inconclusive that money was missing. Chief Lee Wetherington of North Augusta Public Safety said Mr. Terlizzi replaced $500 of the money before the audit was performed and returned the other $500 on Friday, the day after he resigned.

William Burkhalter, the school board attorney, said Tuesday that Mr. Terlizzi did not spend any of the money.

Police were notified of possible violations Friday in accordance with South Carolina law after the results of an audit indicated discrepancies in the high school's internal accounts.

An audit by Aiken accounting firm Elliot, Davis and Co. concluded that on two occasions -- Aug. 24 and Sept. 4 -- Mr. Terlizzi circumvented the accounting system.

More than once, the audit states, the principal received checks in the mail for $500 and deposited them without following procedure and giving them to the bookkeeper.

In addition, other discrepancies were found in unreconciled change fund accounts and proceeds from ticket sales.

Mr. Terlizzi moved to North Augusta from Columbia, where he had been a principal in the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. He was in his third year as North Augusta's principal.

John Bell, one of three assistant principals at North Augusta High, is serving as the school's interim principal.