New York, NY, October 21, 2010 – At a time when Long Island families are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet, parents and high school seniors in at least one district are being overcharged…by their own teachers! Following an investigation of the Mount Sinai Schools’ Extraclassroom Activity Fund by Kessler International, our team of forensic accountants has uncovered evidence that companies affiliated to teachers are profiting enormously from events like Senior Class Trips.
Wendy Rottner, a teacher from the district, organized and planned the annual trips to Disney World while operating as a travel agent for Northfork Travel. Rottner, who was also paid to chaperone the trips, did not have to bid for the contract and, indeed, never had to offer proper supporting documentation for her prices.
Kessler International discovered such a rampant culture of waste and a lack of oversight in Mount Sinai that Rottner was overpaid by more than $8,000 for her services one year. The District did not provide any documentation showing that this excess money was ever reimbursed. In 2008, the Extraclassroom Activities Fund was charged for Steven Zummo, another teacher who chaperoned the trip, for 39 hours work, yet he only invoiced the District for 26 hours.
“What piqued my interest was a Mount Sinai High School student who told me he was being charged $1,300 for this trip,” said Michael G. Kessler, founder and President of Kessler International and Chairman of The Project for a Better Tomorrow. “This kid was working so hard to save the money to go to Florida and it was very obvious to me that he was being overcharged. For starters, he told me four kids had to share a room and two slept on the floor. All that money to sleep on the floor?”
Between class year 2005 and 2010, Northfork Travel conducted nearly $750,000 worth of business with the school fund yet this contract was never put up for bidding. The same principle applied to Hampton Sound/DeeJayz Inc, a company listing John Wilson, another Mount Sinai teacher, as an executive officer. Hampton Sound/DeeJayz Inc was paid over $12,000 from this fund yet never had to bid for any of these jobs.
Apart from not having to compete for contracts, companies which make thousands of dollars off senior class events like the annual trip and the prom were not issued IRS 1099 forms. No attempt was made to ensure taxes were paid on these payments, just like no attempt was made to get value for the money the parents and children worked so hard for.
“This is one small part of the annual budget in one school district,” said Kessler. “Is this mismanagement and corruption commonplace? Are other teachers lining their pockets with no-bid contracts and invoicing districts for tens of thousands of dollars without supporting documentation? Do other schools tolerate this wanton waste of money? This cash comes directly from the kids and their parents and is supposedly held in trust. I think it’s time to ask: “Where is the trust?’”
Based upon the disturbing finding, Kessler has forwarded a copy of their report to the Suffolk County District Attorney as well as the NYS Comptroller’s Office for further review.
A copy of the full report is available on request from Kessler International, whose multi-disciplinary staff includes experts in forensic accounting, high technology crime, asset tracking, fraud and corruption investigation. Our diverse team includes former state and federal prosecutors, law enforcement agents, attorneys, forensic accountants, CPAs and analysts. For more information please refer to the firm’s website www.investigation.com or call (212) 286-9100 or (800) 932-2221. Michael Kessler is also Chairman of The Project for a Better Tomorrow, a not for profit devoted to exposing the misuse of taxpayer funds and restore the public trusts by demanding higher standards of ethics, accountability and transparency for government funds.
Michael G. Kessler
President and CEO
New York, NY