A criminal investigation was launched Friday into alleged misconduct at Manor ISD. The school district was formally notified by Manor's Police Chief after he reviewed a critical audit that was released last week.
Patrol cars arrived at the administrative offices for Manor ISD shortly after the school day had gotten underway. Manor Police Chief Ryan Phipps, along with two detectives, went inside and notified school officials that a formal investigation has now been launched.
"How we found out about it is, just talk in town, that there was something going on, no body with the school system has made any communications with us regarding it,” said Chief Phipps.
Early last week, this forensic audit was presented to the Manor ISD School Board. According to the report, "the investigation revealed misconduct, unsatisfactory performance, and a lack of supervision in the MISD business office."
The auditors cited allegations of; submitting false time sheets, the questionable handling of stolen band activity funds. It was also noted a former employee was given a $70,000 paycheck, by mistake - which was cashed and used to buy a Mercedes. Chief Phipps says his investigation will try to specifically identify any possible criminal violations to the state code.
"There's going to be other agencies, who have an interest in it, we've made contact with the State Auditor’s Office, who they investigate fraud in state taxing agencies, so they are going to probably have an interest, the federal prosecutors office is going to have an interest in the fraud that was committed with regards to the federal grants so it’s going to be bigger than Manor PD,” said Chief Phipps.
FOX 7 has confirmed that the Travis County Sheriff's Office started looking into one audit item back in March. It involves the theft of almost $3,000 in band activity funds. According to the audit report, the band director agreed "to pay back the theft out of his own pocket," but it was noted "nothing has been paid back to date."
Interim Superintendent Roy Knight told FOX 7 the band director claims the money was stolen out of his safe. Roger wade with the Travis County Sheriff’s office says the theft investigation remains open
The Texas Education Agency is also very interested in what the audit turned up, although any review from the TEA is expected to focus on the hiring or teachers and other individuals who had direct contact with students.
According to a spokesperson with TEA, the head of the School Financial Audits section contacted Manor ISD and requested a copy of the audit. The state agency wants to know more about the report of, "uncertified teachers were used to teach credit courses, while a certified teacher was shown as the teacher of record,” and the hiring of instructors," who had not been fingerprinted or background checked."
"As of right now, what we have to do is figure out what we are going to move forward with and what we have to, or make sure other agencies are aware of, what they have to deal with,” said Chief Phipps.
The Chief did not know how long his investigation will take, but he did say school officials agreed to fully cooperate with his review.
Clarification: On Friday, our report on the audit said, "A former employee wrote herself into a grant for a federally funded program." But, our report inaccurately stated: "The program was supervised by Lisa Barrett Johnson, the head of Manor's Fine Arts Department."
FOX 7 has confirmed Barrett Johnson did not supervise, and was not responsible for, the program in question. Although auditors suggested: A criminal investigation should be opened into the former employee for including herself in the grant, auditors did not suggest a criminal investigation be opened into Barrett Johnson.
To look at the original audit - click here.