The Nacogdoches Police Department is staying tight-lipped on a theft investigation that began last year at Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary School after financial "discrepancies" were discovered within the school's Parent Teacher Association.
After receiving information that two individuals were involved in the disappearance of a large sum of money from the PTA's coffers in 2009, The Daily Sentinel filed a public information request with the Nacogdoches Police Department for any investigative information pertaining to the PTA's former treasurer, Wendi Channel, and the PTA's former president, Angie King.
Channel is currently the payroll clerk for the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office and King once worked for the sheriff's office as a secretary but resigned six years ago after admitting to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from several organizations.
No charges were ever filed in the incident at Brooks Quinn Jones after an undisclosed amount of the missing funds from the PTA's bank account were returned, according to school district officials.
And despite the fact that the case is now closed, the police have opted to withhold the lion's share of the information requested by the newspaper and only surrendered the first three pages of a 15-page incident report dated Dec. 18, 2009.
The mostly redacted report says that officers responded to a theft call at 900 North Sanders St., which is the school's address, and among the evidence collected from the school included four binders full of financial documents. The person who reported the alleged theft to police was the PTA's current president, Sherry Slowikowski.
The police department also withheld two recorded interviews in relation to Channel and King on the grounds that they are not obligated to release such information because there were no convictions or other criminal judgments in the case.
A 14-page "representative sample" of nearly 700 financial documents were withheld as well. The police said that the information in the bank statements, canceled checks and other financial statements could be used illegally to steal money from the various accounts listed and therefore withheld all that information as well.
The Daily Sentinel has filed an appeal to the Attorney General's Office to get the information released under the Texas Freedom of Information laws.
Slowikowski declined to answer questions directly from the press on the matter and instead issued a statement explaining that in September of 2009, the parents and faculty of BQJ elected new officers to the PTA and, as is required, a financial audit was conducted before the new officers began their duties.
"This audit uncovered discrepancies and recommendations that the current board addressed," she said in the statement. "It was determined that possible criminal activity may have occurred, and we felt obligated to contact the Nacogdoches Police Department for further investigation. The matter was resolved, without criminal charges being filed, and the current board is satisfied with the conclusion.
"We feel the resolution agreed upon was in the best interest of the students, faculty and PTA members of our organization."
Slowikowski added that policies are now being enforced to "improve the integrity" of the PTA and their financial records.
"With this incident behind us, our only focus is on raising the necessary funds to address the needs of our students, parents and the faculty of the Brooks Quinn Jones Elementary School," she wrote.
NISD's spokesperson Marty Prince said that when the PTA brought their records to the district's CFO Linda Engle, she found the records to be "inconclusive" regarding any criminal activity and encouraged the PTA to alert the police.
"We are very proud of our 2009-2010 PTA at Brooks Quinn Jones," Prince said in a statement. "They handled a very difficult situation that involved parents of their students in a very professional manner. They acted quickly and immediately sought the expertise of local law enforcement and the state PTA association when the previous treasurer's bookkeeping became a concern."
Prince said that with the help of the police and the Texas PTA, the Brooks Quinn Jones PTA was able to recover "much" of the funds in question.
"We applaud the staff and PTA at BQJ for their commitment to our students and the integrity with which they resolved this issue," she said.
Efforts to reach both King and Channel for this story were unsuccessful.
In 2004, King served 150 days in jail and was placed on eight years of probation after she plead guilty to two counts of felony theft by a public servant and two counts of forgery. King was forced to resign from the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office where she worked as the sheriff's secretary and voluntarily surrendered her peace officer's license after she admitted to stealing more than $57,000 from the East Texas Peace Officers' Association, a Columbia Space Shuttle recovery T-shirt fund, Sheriff Thomas Kerss' campaign fund and other charitable organizations, including the Red Cross.
Trent Jacobs' e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.