Former Indiana schools food service bookkeeper owes taxpayers $1.1M, audit shows

ANDERSON, Ind. — Indiana officials are seeking $1.1 million in repayment from a former food service bookkeeper whom they claim stole from a school district’s lunch fund account over a five-year period, authorities said.

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According to a special audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts, Carla Burke, who worked for Anderson Community Schools, cashed 312 checks in her name, WXIN-TV reported.

Burke was hired by Anderson Community School Corp. in 1998 and was named food service department bookkeeper in 2006, The Herald Bulletin of Anderson reported. Burke resigned in 2019.

The audit found that from 2014 to 2019, Burke cashed the checks, which totaled $976,773, from the school lunch fund extracurricular bank account, according to the newspaper.

“It’s hard to understand the lack of accountability,” Rodney Cummings, Madison County’s prosecutor, told WXIN. “It’s hard for me to imagine that somebody would have not noticed what was happening.”

According to the report, Burke also did not remit payroll withholding tax payments in a timely fashion to both the federal and state government, which resulted in $20,109 in penalties and interest, WRTV reported. The Indiana State Board of Accounts also incurred costs of $121,442 due to the special investigation, according to The Herald Bulletin.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts said Burke must pay $1,118,325.26 for unauthorized transactions, penalties and interest as well as special investigation costs.

The audit also criticized the school corporation, WRTV reported.

“Bank statements and canceled checks were not reviewed, so school corporation officials were not aware that canceled checks or check images were not being provided by the bank,” the audit stated.

Burke was one of two required signatures on any checks, but the dual signatures were applied on the checks when they were created electronically, The Herald Bulletin reported.

Anderson Community Schools said in a statement that the money allegedly stolen “did not cause any disruption in services” to its students.

“Carla Burke, former food service employee with Anderson Community School Corp., orchestrated an elaborate scheme to steal money from the department’s school lunch fund extracurricular account,” Anderson Community Schools said in a statement. “At the moment the theft was first uncovered, we immediately reported this to the proper authorities and took corrective action.”

Cummings said Burke has not yet been arrested,” WXIN reported.

“The office has received the audit report today,” the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said in a statement to WRTV on Thursday. “We are reviewing it and will be pursuing the matter diligently to ensure the best recovery possible.”

Several news organizations have reached out to Burke for comment, but she has yet to respond.