LOS LUNAS—A former Los Lunas High School secretary allegedly took $2,500 last summer from the high school’s athletic department’s petty cash safe.
The Los Lunas Schools administration did not report the incident until Nov. 14.
According to a letter, dated Nov. 14, 2018, from Claire Cieremans, the Los Lunas Schools’ chief financial officer, to former New Mexico Auditor Wayne Johnson, on June 11, administrative officials were notified that the athletic department start-up cash had not been deposited and was missing from the safe located at Los Lunas High School.
Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Dana Sanders said an investigation of the incident and individuals that were directly responsible for the cash safe was conducted by school officials, and the Los Lunas Board of Education plus the district’s independent auditor, Cordova CPAs LLC, were notified about the issue.
“There’s really nothing else to say other than we should have let (the state auditor’s office) know right away, but what we did was an investigation,” Sanders said.
The employee who was responsible for this money is no longer employed with the school district, and district officials couldn’t get information from her, Sanders said.
“So therefore, we weren’t able to really come up with who could of or would of, we never got that part of it,” Sanders continued. “So yes, we should have reported it to the auditor, I guess within a couple of weeks but we did not do that. We will do better next time.”
According to the reply letter to Cieremans dated Dec. 17, 2018, from the state auditor, it is a violation of state law to wait to report possible criminal violations. State law mandates “an agency or independent auditor shall report a violation immediately to the state auditor.”
The state auditor’s letter was also sent by email to Frank Baca, deputy District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District; Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule, Brian C. Smith, the vice president of the Board of Education; and Bobby Cordova, of Cordova’s CPA.
While Chief Gurule was notified last month by the email and a follow-up call from Sanders, he told the News-Bulletin the LLPD was not asked to do an investigation on the missing money.
“If we’re asked to do an investigation, we would do it,” Gurule said.
Sanders said the mistake was made in not reporting it to law enforcement or to the state auditor.
The superintendent would not give the name of the secretary allegedly responsible for the athletic department’s petty cash but said they had been employed with Los Lunas Schools for one year, and their contract was not renewed. The position has since been filled.
Meanwhile, the $2,500 in cash is gone. The athletic petty cash is generated from athletic event ticket sales, Cieremans said.
“We redid our procedures manual portion for athletics and we changed all the locks where the safe was held, in that area making it more secure,” Cieremans said. “Then we also have some double checks, so we check monthly and/or weekly to make sure the money is still in the safe.”
Sanders said they will wait on law enforcement as to how to proceed.
“We’ll see what they want and what they are suggesting that we do with it.”