Ex-bookkeeper accused of stealing $147k from East Beauregard High

By By Lauren Manary / American Press

A former bookkeeper at East Beauregard High School has been arrested after alledgedly pocketing $147,648 during her eight-year

tenure.

Sharon “Sherry” Bushnell, 67, of Dry

Creek, was arrested Friday and is being held on $25,000 bond in the

Beauregard Parish

jail. According to a news release from the Beauregard Parish

School Board, the money was discovered missing on June 24 after

Principal Larry Hollie reported he was unable to locate school

activity funds.

“It is always tragic when there are

allegations that a trusted employee has violated that trust by

misappropriating public

funds,” wrote School Superintendent Timothy Cooley. “The matter is

now in the hands of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Department

for such further actions as may be appropriate.”

Cooley, who served at East Beauregard High School as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, chose not to comment beyond

the news release.

Roger Harris, the director of

investigative audits at the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, said

his department began

its investigation July 10. A report released Friday says the

auditors were able to corroborate the theft by checking receipts

recorded by Bushnell against the high school’s checking account. The report also says Bushnell said that after she issued receipts,

she would alter the books before reconciling the school’s bank account.

“It’s a shame that the board will not

conduct a full finance audit in every school in the parish,” said School

Board member

Russell Havens. “We do only piecemeal audits, the School Board

needs a full legislative audit on the school system. They need

to speak to all board members, not just two or three.”

“Ms. Bushnell was highly thought of in the community,” said School Board member Don Gray, who represents East Beauregard.

“The ones who don’t know, it’s going to be a shock to them. Regardless of her motives, there’s no real reason to steal or

take money when it don’t belong to you.”

According to School Board records,

Bushnell retired from East Beauregard on June 26 — one day after the

Sheriff’s Office said

it was contacted to begin an investigation. Bushnell told auditors

that she was taking the money to help cover costs for her

spouse’s medical bills and to support the members of her

household. Bushnell was earning $15,191 yearly for her position,

which required she work only 11 months each year.

“Hopefully we can recover some of the money. Things are already being put in place so that won’t happen again,” Gray said.

The auditor’s report recommends the

school system seek recovery of the funds; separate the functions of

collecting/recording

receipt information and performing bank reconciliation; and

implement changes to the electronic accounting system to prevent

the alteration of receipt information.

l

Online: www.lla.state.la.us.