Former East Beau bookkeeper arrested following audit investigation into alleged theft

Sharon Bushnell (Source: Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office)
Sharon Bushnell (Source: Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office)

BEAUREGARD PARISH, LA (KPLC) - A special investigative audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office targets the alleged theft of school funds by a former bookkeeper at East Beauregard High School.

The audit, which was made public on Friday afternoon, states that former bookkeeper, Sharon Bushnell, "may have violated state law" when she took the funds, totaling $147,648, from the school's activity funds, between June 2, 2005 and May 31, 2013.

According to the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office, Bushnell, 67, of Dry Creek, was arrested Friday and booked on a felony theft charge. Bond was set at $25,000.

"Business records for the Beauregard Parish School System (BPSS) show $147,648 of school activity funds (funds) were collected by Ms. Bushnell between June 2, 2005 and May 31, 2013, that were not deposited into the East Beauregard High School (EBHS) checking account designated for these funds. We identified the $147,648 of funds by comparing the amount of funds recorded on receipts signed by Ms. Bushnell to the amount of deposits into the EBHS checking account for the period June 2, 2005 to May 31, 2013," the audit states.

"As the bookkeeper at East Beauregard High School, Ms. Bushnell's job duties included collecting funds, entering collection information (dates and amounts) into the electronic accounting system, generating and signing receipts, making deposits of funds, and performing monthly bank reconciliations of the EBHS checking account. According to Ms. Bushnell, after she collected the funds, issued a receipt, and entered the receipts into the accounting system, she took a portion of these funds each month for her personal use. Ms. Bushnell further stated that she hid the missing funds by altering the accounting system records every month before reconciling the EBHS checking account," the audit continues.

The audit says Bushnell used the funds to pay for medical bills for her spouse "and to provide support for members of her household."

State auditors recommended that the school system seek recovery of the funds and implement changes to further secure bookkeeping at the school.

You can view the full audit HERE. It also includes a "management's response" from the school system.

In addition, on Friday, Superintendent of Schools Tim Cooley issued the following statement on the matter to the media:

"On June 24, 2013, the principal of East Beauregard High School reported that he had discovered some School Activity Fund discrepancies which indicated a possible misappropriation of funds. I immediately contacted the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Department to begin an investigation. The Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Department also corroborated a possible misappropriation of funds. I then requested an independent audit of the EBHS School Activity Fund accounts by the Investigative Audit Division of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office. It is a conclusion of this audit that will be forthcoming that indicated misappropriation of funds over $147,000.00 resulting from bookkeeping manipulations over an eight year time frame. It is always tragic when there are allegations that a trusted employee has violated that trust by misappropriating public funds. The matter is now in the hands of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Department for such further actions as may be appropriate."

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