August 23, 2014

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Ex-school board member target of probe

OBERLIN — Former Oberlin school board Vice President Paula Jones, who resigned her board position Monday, is the focus of a police investigation into missing funds at the Eastwood Parent Teacher Organization, according to Oberlin police Lt. Michael McCloskey.

Jones

Jones

He said police are working to obtain bank records for Jones, who has not been charged.

The school board accepted Jones’ resignation Tuesday, according to Board President Beth Weiss.

“I know there is some money missing, it’s a police investigation,” Weiss said.

Jones did not return several calls seeking comment.

The investigating officer, Detective Victor Ortiz, said Jones obtained an attorney and declined to participate in a scheduled interview.

Jones’ resignation letter hinted at the investigation but didn’t acknowledge it.

“It is with a conflicted and aching heart that I write to resign my position from the Oberlin Board of Education,’’ she wrote. “I am going through a challenging personal time right now, and while I am certain that I have done nothing inappropriate in my various roles in organizations related to the schools, I ran for the school board to help the children of the Oberlin Schools. On those very children is where our community’s attention should be focused, and I fear that my circumstances will be a distraction for me, for the board and for the community.”

Police are looking into an allegation that money collected by Eastwood students for Oberlin Community Services was never delivered, according to Oberlin Schools Superintendent Geoffrey Andrews, who contacted police several weeks ago after learning of the missing funds.

He said he had spoken to Jones in the past several days.

“She said, ‘I’m considering resigning,’ and then she submitted the letter,” Andrews said.

Eastwood PTO President Stori Miller said Jones was treasurer of the organization in April when children obtained pledges and walked 1,300 miles to collect $1,400 for people in need who get help from Oberlin Community Services.

Miller said Jones was supposed to deliver a check the second week of April, but the check never made it to its destination.

When questioned, Jones said she gave cash to a man at Oberlin Community Services on June 11 without getting a receipt, Miller said.

“I think it’s highly irresponsible not to have this transaction completed,” Miller said. “At the very least, taking cash and giving it to an unknown person and not getting a receipt seems very inappropriate.”

She said Jones, the mother of five children, no longer has a child at Eastwood and is no longer a member of the PTO.

The board has 30 days to fill the board vacancy, and interested persons should contact Weiss, Andrews said.

The job pays $125 a meeting and there were 19 board meetings last year.

If the vacancy is filled after the Nov. 3 election, the replacement can fill the remainder of Jones’ term without a special election, which would cost $10,000 to $15,000, he said.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.