State Audit Finds Iowa Woman Misused Over $20K in Band Program Money

SAYDEL, Iowa -- A state audit has uncovered misspent money at Saydel High School. The treasurer of a booster club for students is accused of spending thousands of dollars on herself.

The state audit combed through financial transactions of the Saydel Music Boosters from August 1 of 2014 through March 31 of 2018 and found the club's treasurer at the time, Denice Grove, improperly spent over $21,000 meant for the district's music programs.

"I think it`s really sad, especially for this school district where we strive to give as much to the kids as possible," said Michael Mortensen, who has two children within the school district.

The special investigation was launched soon after the request of the Saydel Music Boosters and the Saydel Community School District when Grove's attorney approached them in April of 2018 to offer to arrange a repayment of $15,000.  Mortensen commended the district's swift response and said, "The actions by the school administration was actually pretty fast and effective. They saw an issue and they made the adjustments they needed to."

The audit revealed that Grove spent the amount on items like Walmart debit cards, a wireless Xbox controller, clothes, video games, DVDs, CDs, groceries, prescription eyeglasses and even paid a personal credit payment with money raised by the boosters for events like a band trip to Orlando, Florida.  "To have an adult take it away from those kids is very devastating," Mortensen said.

Grove served as treasurer from September of 2014 until April of 2018.  Auditor of State Rob Sand released the report early Tuesday citing Grove also kept incomplete records of the booster club's spending.

Saydel Community School District Superintendent Todd Martin responded with a statement saying, "'The district has reviewed the findings and recommendations of the state auditor and will be working with the Saydel Music Boosters club to correct the matter.  The district will also be assessing whether any feedback from the state auditor may be useful to the district in its continued efforts to become even more accountable and transparent to its taxpayers."

The audit may be complete, but Grove`s legal woes may not.  Copies of the report have been sent to the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Attorney's Office and the office of the Attorney General of Iowa.

Mortensen said, "I hope there is just more oversight; they watch these individuals in place to make sure the funds are going back to the kids and the programs that are designed for them."

The state auditor's office says they tried to reach out to Grove for her cooperation with the audit but received no response.

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