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Huntington Police Probe PTA Losses

September 24, 2004|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

A recently resigned board member of a Parent-Teacher Assn. chapter is under investigation for possibly embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the volunteer group, Huntington Beach police said Thursday.

The investigation was launched when PTA members at Kettler Elementary School in the Huntington Beach City School District could not account for about $35,000 after an end-of-year audit, police and district officials said.

"They came to us with allegations that the money had not been used for school or PTA purposes, and so far our investigation supports that," said Sgt. Dave Bunetta. Citing the ongoing investigation, Bunetta declined to provide details of the case or identify the volunteer under suspicion.

Kettler PTA members declined to comment on the investigation.

On a quiet, residential street, Kettler Elementary serves about 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Detectives expect to complete their investigation and turn the case over to the Orange County district attorney's office in the next few weeks, Bunetta said.

"It has been a high-priority case for us," he said, "because we know it affects schools and kids."

The PTA, founded in 1897, is the nation's oldest and largest volunteer education advocacy group. Along with fundraising by school chapters and political lobbying on education issues, the PTA has been a leader in tackling major social welfare issues such as polio inoculation in the 1950s and preventing child tobacco use a decade later.

School chapters, made up of volunteer parents and teachers, typically elect a board to oversee funds meant to supplement school programs. Chapters usually hold two or three major fundraising drives each year in hopes of raising $25,000 to $50,000.

State PTA guidelines require chapters to perform annual audits to guard against misuse of funds.

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