This story has been updated to include statements made by Julie-Anne Frazier and a response from school district spokesman Rick Parrish about her claims.
A Longview school district employee resigned last month after a financial audit and police investigation found she had misappropriated about $1,200 in office supplies using school district money, according to documents obtained under the state Open Records law.
Longview School District spokesman Rick Parrish said the investigation started after a supervisor at the district’s maintenance and operations center reviewed the suspicious purchases made over about the last three years by Julie-Anne Frazier, the facilities and maintenance secretary. The district placed Frazier on paid administrative leave on June 19.
Frazier resigned after the investigation found she had purchased supplies using district funds and kept the products for herself.
“We found that she’d purchase supplies that were then taken out of (the maintenance center) and used somewhere else inappropriately,” Parrish said Thursday.
Reached by phone Friday, Frazier said she was overworked and overwhelmed from working two jobs at the time and made the purchases through the district’s discount to save money. She said she always replenished the money that was spent on the items back into the district’s petty cash fund.
Frazier said “it was absolutely a mistake,” but she added that she made the orders “without any intent or malice.” She said she also erred by paying that cost back into the wrong fund, and that there was no official record keeping of the petty cash fund.
“It was an error of judgment, never in any way theft or embezzlement, misappropriation of funds,” Frazier said. (In her restitution agreement with the district, which she signed, Frazier acknowledges that she misappropriated district money.)
Frazier has refunded all of the money to the district as required by the restitution agreement, Parrish said. Frazier said she was happy to comply with that agreement, even if it meant paying the value of the items on top of the money she paid into the petty cash fund.
“I never denied that it happened,” Frazier said. “In the beginning, I never thought about anything I did being wrong … once it was brought to my attention, I said I’ll do whatever it takes to (fix) this.”
However, Parrish, reached Friday, said the restitution agreement was the only instance the district is aware of in which Frazier paid money back for the purchases.
“The investigation did not reveal any evidence that money was paid back through the petty cash fund,” Parrish said.
And regardless, the school district has no policy allowing employees to purchase items for themselves through district orders, Parrish clarified.
The misappropriated funds totaled $1,240.48, about $900 of which was spent on printer ink cartridges, according to a financial audit. Another $70 went to safety glasses, $200 was spent on gloves and another $90 was spent on a portable propane heater.
According to a July 10 email from Longview Police Detective Trevor Eades to district leadership director Tony VanderMaas, Frazier initially said she could not remember for which department she purchased some of the items. Later on in the police interview, however, Frazier “expressed remorse and admitted that she purchased the items for herself in an effort to receive the discount through the school,” Eades wrote.
Frazier said she felt terrible and called the decision “stupid,” Eades wrote.
Frazier, who was hired in 2005, voluntarily resigned on July 11. The Longview School Board accepted her resignation on July 22.
The district will not seek criminal charges against Frazier under the terms of their restitution agreement. However, the agreement leaves open the ability for the district to seek prosecution if more misappropriated purchases are discovered. Parrish said he is not aware of any other misappropriated items or monies.
The Washington State Auditor’s office was involved in investigating the purchases, Auditor’s office spokesman Adam Wilson confirmed.
The kinds of small individual purchases that Frazier made are difficult to detect, which is “a testament” to the district’s internal control system, Parrish said.
“It’s a sad and unfortunate situation,” Parrish said. “We’re glad that the school district internal control systems discovered the problem, and that the school district ended up not suffering a loss, as all the dollars were paid (back). Other than that, we’re focused on starting the school year.”