COLUMBUS — A state audit of the 2017-2018 Elida Local School District reveals that a former maintenance man had defrauded the school district to the tune of $85,000.
Matthew Burton was fired May 11, 2017. On June 5, 2018, he entered a plea of guilty to one count of theft in office. On Aug. 6, 2018, Judge Jeffery L. Reed ordered Burton to pay back $85,000 to the district and was given an 85-day jail sentence, along with being placed on four years probation.
He hasn’t totally repaid the school district. Based on that order, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber issued findings Tuesday for recovery to ensure Burton makes full restitution.
He still owes the school district $40,243.
Between October of 2007 and May 2017,“this former employee defrauded citizens and stole from students using tax dollars to buy supplies for his private business,” Faber said. “This is an outrageous breach of public trust, and it’s only right that the money be repaid.”
Burton was responsible for maintaining the interior of the Elida schools’ buildings. As part of his duties, he had the authorization to make purchases at several businesses. On May 11, 2017, the district discovered that Burton was performing HVAC work on the side and buying supplies with the district’s funds.
A statement from Elida treasurer Joel Parker indicates once they were made aware of the problem, they acted quickly.
“In May of 2017, acting on a tip from one of our employees, we began investigating the activities of Matthew Burton. Based on what we found, Mr. Burton’s employment ended within 24 hours,” Parker wrote. “We also immediately notified the sheriff’s office and our auditor. We performed an internal investigation in cooperation with the sheriff’s office. The investigation led to a successful prosecution, and we anticipate receiving the full restitution. The act of defrauding taxpayers is a serious offense, and as such, our actions were swift and appropriate.”
In addition to his job as a maintenance supervisor, Burton was also heavily involved in youth sports at Elida and, according to one school official, helped conduct “Character Night” meetings for students on a regular basis.
After his dismissal, Burton voluntarily had the district withhold his unused vacation leave payout of $6,128 and unused personal leave payout of $300. On Oct. 9, 2018, the school district received a payment of $38,229 from the School Employees Retirement System. On Feb. 19, the district received a $100 restitution payment from the court.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.