If you live in the Stratford subdivision in Evans, or know some of the residents who do, you’ve seen a touch of the angst (and anger) over the reported thefts by a former treasurer of more than a quarter-million dollars from the community association’s coffers.
Likewise, you might have seen how many residents in that community lashed out at the association’s board members for apparently failing to notice the funds being pilfered until nearly five years had passed.
And if you’ve noticed the turmoil, you probably now have a pretty good idea why the Columbia County School Board recently voted to require the books of all private school support groups be run through each school’s bookkeeper.
Before that policy change this spring, roughly 60 percent of such organizations – PTOs and booster clubs – already routed their books through their school’s office. Officials have been pretty insistent that there was no single incident that moved them to bring the other 40 percent of the system’s schools into conformity – but the Stratford case shows why it’s a good idea.
Actually, the Stratford case is an example of a lot of things – and not just the obvious: greed. It’s an example of the difficulty of getting people involved in volunteer efforts, particularly such thankless tasks as homeowners’ associations. And it’s a good example of putting too much trust in personalities to the detriment of sound business practices.
But it’s also a signal to other volunteer groups: Be sure your metaphorical barn door is securely shut now, rather than waiting until all those horses have escaped.
The Board of Education took proactive steps to improve financial accountability. Private groups should take the opportunity to police their own books, too.