Countryside Touchdown Club Inc. sacked (updated)



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Wed. December 8, 2010 | John C. Cotey | Email

The Countryside Touchdown Club Inc. held its monthly board meeting Tuesday not knowing what its future held, just that it was hanging by a thread.

On Wednesday, that thread was snipped.


Countryside principal Gerald Schlereth officially requested Wednesday that the booster club, an incorporated fundraising arm for the school's football team, be placed under the control of the school after an audit of the organization released last week revealed thousands of dollars unaccounted for and almost nonexistent record-keeping of more than $300,000 the past three years.


(Read the original story here)


Current president Jorge Chavez, who took over in September after John Schroeder resigned for making disparaging sexual comments toward board member Stephanie Hawks, said he was disappointed but not surprised.


"With the way the audit was and how big a deal it became, I would expect that would be his initial reaction,'' Chavez said. "He told me in the past he supports us and the changes we've made, so maybe this is a way to start fresh.''


Office of Professional Standards administrator Valencia Walker confirmed that Schlereth was in the process of formalizing a request to exercise his authority under bylaw 9211 to revoke the booster club's approval to use the school's name, logo, mascot or trademark for not following school board rules.


The first, and maybe most important, rule: Adequate, auditable records will be maintained at all times, which was not clearly done under Schroeder.


According to the audit of the club, there was no documentation of the deposits made to the club's account, and there have been 1,331 expenditures involving $319,769.52, but only 194 receipts were provided:


* Only two receipts were provided for 132 cash withdrawals totaling $61,585


* Only 141 receipts for 881 debit purchases totaling $127,429.33 were submitted to auditers.


* Only 52 of 310 checks written were provided for review. Only 23 of those had two signatures, another of the school board's rules.


The audit also noted past due notices from multiple vendors, one involving a collection agency, and alcoholic beverages on some the receipts from eating establishments.


Though the Countryside Touchdown Club Inc. was incorporated, it was required by the school board to provide copies of bank statements and treasurer reports to Schlereth on a monthy basis. It is unclear, given the lack of records provided to auditors, if that was ever done and ifso, if Schlereth ever looked at them.


Nor is it clear if the club provided Schlereth with an annual financial statement with backup documentation as required. Schlereth did not return two messages left at his home Wednesday night, and has not returned multiple messages left at his office since the audit became public.


Walker said the case is not necessarily closed, and further action is possible. "As things become apparent, we'll step back and look at it and decide our next step,'' she said.


Walker said the booster club did turn in an Excel sheet Tuesday that it hoped might explain some of the unaccounted for monies. But without additional receipts and invoices, the records were likely useless.


Countryside's booster club has long been regarded as one of the top clubs in Pinellas County, pulling in $123,000 in 2007-08, more than $87,000 in 2008-09 and more than $88,000 in 2009-10.


It exhausted the coffers each season.


But the club began to unravel in September, when Schroeder's claim that he was in "command" of all the money was challenged by president-elect Hawks. Hawks brought her concerns to varsity coach Jared Davis, but said she was ignored and removed from the club's checking account.


Schroeder, a Countryside graduate, stepped down as president a short time later after he made sexually explicit remarks about Hawks in the coaches office; one of the coaches told Hawks, escalating the situation, and she went to the media.


Chavez took over and the club's debt was reduced from $28,000 to $7,000. He hoped he and the remaining members would get a chance to repair the club. Their biggest concern at the last booster club meeting: how to pay for the end of the year banquet for a team coming off the best season (13-1) in school history.


Schroeder has been unavailable for comment.


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