Wednesday, March 21, 2018

State auditor: West Valley football coach inappropriately used district money in personal bank account

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 2:16 PM

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West Valley High School football coach Craig Whitney opened an unauthorized bank account and misused thousands of dollars in district money, a state auditor's office investigation has found.

But the district remains convinced there was no ill intent on Whitney's part.

"Coach Whitney openly acknowledges that he should have handled the funds according to district protocol," says district Superintendent Gene Sementi. "While it was inappropriate, I believe and accept his explanation that he commingled the money out of efficiency, not any intent to gain personally."

The investigation was prompted when Namcheon Chan, a parent of kids who used to attend school in West Valley School District, raised concerns more than a year ago about checks the YMCA wrote for a West Valley football summer camp that were instead put into an unauthorized account that only Whitney had access to. The district requested an audit — proof, Sementi says, that the district took the complaint seriously.

The audit, completed earlier this month, confirmed many of Chan's concerns. The YMCA wrote checks made out to "West Valley Football" each summer for up to $3,480 to fund a summer camp. Whitney then put that money into a bank account that he also used for personal expenses. The result was an unauthorized bank account that mixed personal and district funds.

According to the audit report, Whitney thought the money he received for the camp was his to use throughout the year for football expenses "and some personal expenses because he did not receive a district coaching stipend from the district for operating the camp."

When the auditors examined the bank account activity from 2014-16, they found $3,286 in "legitimate expenses," yet more than $12,500 in what the auditors called either personal or questionable expenses. That $12,500 was spent on things like food for the team or coaches' meetings, paying assistant coaches and players for running the summer camp and more than $6,000 in "other" payments such as parking, lodging, sports apparel and supplies.

Sementi notes that even though some of those expenses can be considered personal or questionable by the auditors, most of it was spent on the football program and to help student athletes. He says Whitney will be responsible for reimbursing "a reasonable amount of the purchases the state found problematic, even though the state found ample evidence to suggest that the money was spent on the football program and to help student athletes."

The audit recommended that the district strengthen oversight of athletic finances and internal controls. It says when the district determines the reimbursement amount, it should include the $6,724 for the cost of the investigation.

Sementi says he and the West Valley School Board will review the auditor's report and determine how much Whitney should reimburse. That money will be deposited into a fund specific to the football program.

"I'd like to stress that coach Whitney has my full confidence as a coach and educator," Sementi says.

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