Fired Park Road secretary was blamed in $15,000 school embezzlement

Fired Park Road secretary was blamed in $15,000 school embezzlement

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - Park Road Montessori School's senior administrative secretary was fired in July after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools found 12 checks written to her, according to a dismissal letter.

CMS reported an embezzlement in July after a year-end audit turned up $15,276 that was allegedly stolen from the school, a preK-6 magnet in south Charlotte. The criminal investigation is ongoing, and CMS had previously declined to say whether any employees were disciplined in connection with the theft.

However, a July 13 dismissal letter says that Deborah Crater was terminated when "audit records identified 12 checks written to you while in your position of Senior Administrative Secretary at Park Road Montessori." The letter from Employee Relations says Crater was asked to provide supporting documentation, but she did not report to Employee Relations and stopped showing up to work after June 2.

Crater, who had worked for CMS since October 2009, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Park Road Principal Anna Moraglia remains on indefinite suspension, with a retired administrator filling the job until a CMS investigation is resolved. Citing North Carolina's personnel privacy laws, the district declined to say why Moraglia was suspended or whether it is connected with the embezzlement.

Moraglia's lawyer says she is not the target of a criminal investigation. CMS Police Chief Randy Hagler said in July that only one employee was suspected.

Some Park Road families privately voiced frustration that the district's decision to suspend Moraglia less than a week before school opened – and media coverage of her suspension – cast a shadow on the school's opening and the principal's integrity. They declined to speak publicly for fear of offending CMS officials.

When the embezzlement was reported in July, CMS told the Observer it would not comment on disciplinary action unless an information request was made for specific employees. The Observer requested information on all the administrative and office staff listed on the Park Road website, but Crater's name had already been removed.

The Observer got the termination letter from CMS after learning of Crater's possible involvement. While state law makes most personnel records confidential, it requires the release of termination letters.

A spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County district attorney's office said Friday that the investigation is ongoing and she could not comment on the involvement of any individuals.