Auditor will review possible misappropriation of funds by a Princeton Public Schools purchasing department employee

The school board for the Princeton Public Schools has hired an independent auditor after a “possible misappropriation of funds” was discovered in the district’s purchasing department, officials said Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the district confirmed on Wednesday that law enforcement is investigating the matter.

“We have discovered some internal irregularities in our purchasing department,” School Board President Dafna Kendal said at the school board meeting Tuesday night. “Although we have addressed the issues, to the extent known, we have appointed an independent auditor who will be reviewing our policies and internal processes and providing guidance on any necessary revisions to prevent a reoccurrence of the issue and ensure that taxpayer funds are being managed with the utmost integrity.”

Kendal said district officials could not provide more details but will do so when they are allowed to and it is appropriate.

The issue of the purchasing irregularities was disclosed during a discussion of the district’s most recent audit. The board voted to accept the audit and a five-point corrective action plan. Audits and corrective action plans are public documents and are approved by school boards at public meetings.

“During our audit, we noted a potential misappropriation of funds relating to expenditures for
nonpublic state aid where an individual employed by the district was potentially utilizing funds
for personal use,” reads the district’s audit. “We suggest the district strengthen controls surrounding the expenditures related to non-public state aid funds to ensure that the non-public schools verify purchases made and received.”

In the action plan, the purchasing department finding states that the “auditor was notified of, and noted during the audit, that there was a potential misappropriation of funds relating to expenditures of nonpublic state aid.” In January, the district hired the accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies to review internal controls surrounding its purchasing practices and procedures.

By law, public schools are the conduit for non-public schools such as Princeton Day School, Hun, St. Pauls, and Stuart Country Day School for textbooks, technology, and security funding. Additionally, there are some federal funds that flow through the public schools to the private schools, Princeton Public Schools Business Administrator Matt Bouldin said. The state’s non-public funding is based on per pupil allocations and is significant dollars, each year. The state has been increasing its amount of funding on these measures in the last decade, Bouldin said.

As a result of the purchasing department employee issue, district officials have made improvements to internal controls when dealing with purchases made through the public school district by non-public schools in the municipality, including ensuring that requisitions are signed and emailed by the authorized person at the private schools. Items purchased by non-public schools through the district will be shipped to and signed by the authorized people at the non-public schools in the future.