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Published July 08, 2010, 09:18 AM

Audit: School funds may have gone to business

DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands of dollars worth of Springville school district funds appear to have been used to buy food and supplies for a catering business and bar owned by the former food service department director, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

By: Michael J. Crumb, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands of dollars worth of Springville school district funds appear to have been used to buy food and supplies for a catering business and bar owned by the former food service department director, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

State Auditor David Vaudt’s audit of department spending from 2005 to 2009 found about $48,000 in undeposited school lunch fees and about $6,400 in improper spending. The spending included purchases of hams, turkeys, pies, crab cakes, shrimp scampi and chicken wings, according to the audit. Money also was spent on candy, pretzels and cake pans, it said.

Vaudt found the items appeared to have been purchased for personal use by former dis-trict food service director Maajal Houdeshell, who also operated a catering service and bar in Springville.

The items purchased “appear to be appropriate for a catering business or the types of food which would be served in a bar,” the audit said. “Based on the quantity or description of these purchases, we determined the items purchased were not used for the meals ... served to the district. As a result, they are considered to be improper.”

A telephone message seeking comment was left at a listing for Houdeshell on Wednesday. Calls to her business, Baily’s Bar, rang unanswered.

Houdeshell resigned in January 2009, the same month a parent contacted the district to check on a $100 payment sent to school with their child the previous month. The district’s business office was unable to locate the payment on deposit records. It requested the state audit after determining deposit records submitted by Houdeshell were different than activity shown on others.

Superintendent Terry Rhinehart said Houdeshell cited reasons unrelated to the audit when she resigned.

Houdeshell’s responsibilities included ordering and disbursing food, equipment and sup-plies and maintaining inventory for the tiny 440-student district in northeast Iowa. She also was responsible for cash sales and student accounts.

Rhinehart said Springville collects about $120,000 annually from student lunch accounts.

Records show some purchases deemed improper by the audit included whole hams, turkey breasts, fruit filling and pies from Martin Brothers food distribution company. Others purchases were made from Walmart.

District employees said Houdeshell gave hams, turkey breasts, full-size pies and baked goods to teachers and staff around Christmas, according to the audit.

The audit has been forwarded to the Linn County attorney’s office, the Iowa attorney gen-eral’s office and the Linn County sheriff’s office for review.

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