Former Woodward-Granger School District Employee Accused of Stealing Thousands from District

GRANGER, Iowa -- A former Woodward - Granger School District employee is charged with first - degree theft after a state audit accused her of stealing hundred of thousands of dollars from the district.

Melissa Lantz, 35, was taken into custody at the Dallas County Jail Tuesday just hours after an audit from the State Auditor's Office claimed she improperly used $270,000 of the district's money. The audit revealed she wrote more than 100 unauthorized checks to herself as well as increased her take home pay. According to state officials, the activity went from 2012 until 2017.

Last August, the state began its investigation after the district was made aware of discrepancies in the payroll accounting system. On August 4, 2017 Lantz was placed on administrative leave but resigned a few days later.

Connie Kaufman's daughter is a student in the district. She said she heard rumors of Lantz' alleged theft but was shocked to learn the details.

"I just think it`s a sad thing to be in that situation where you have to do something like that but it`s a crime," she said.

Kaufman says she noticed a red flag a couple of years ago when money went missing from the high school's prom fund, a fundraising effort she says was left by Lantz.

"We didn`t know what was coming at that point but yeah it was frustrating. We were trying to raise money and it just didn`t coincide with that we were turning in," Kaufman said.

The district says it is working with its insurance company to recoup some of the lost funds. However, parents say it's money that could have been used for students needs.

"It`s a small community so we have to raise money for a lot of different things. When it goes missing, it does take a lot of work to replenish it."

The school district says it's making strides towards improving and better protecting its payroll accounting system per recommendation by state auditors.