After initial denials by the Grand Traverse Academy's board president Lesley Werth and superintendent Susan Dameron, the Traverse City Record-Eagle revealed today the charter school's board vote in a closed session during Friday's meeting violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act (OMA). The board met at 1:00pm yesterday, September 16, for its previously scheduled annual meeting.
But it's not the first time the Grand Traverse Academy board actively skirted OMA rules, secretly conducting business far away from the prying eyes of the public.
Back in 2013, Mark Noss, then-president of the Grand Traverse Academy board, lobbied fellow board members via email, using fake bank statements cobbled together by Steven Ingersoll, in an effort to convince the board Ingersoll had repaid the school when he had not.
The crudely falsified bank documents — which wouldn't have fooled Stevie Wonder — ultimately allowed Ingersoll to cover his tracks and steal another $110,000 from the charter school in 2012.
With the altered financial documents, Ingersoll effectively swindled the Traverse City charter school out of at least $110,000, while successfully using the deceptive bank documents in a bizarre scheme to convince the Academy Board he’d repaid $1,813,330 owed by Smart Schools Management, Inc. to the Grand Traverse Academy.
But Ingersoll hadn’t really repaid the money.
He just made it look like he had — with the help of his friend, Mark Noss.
Less than four months before Steven Ingersoll was indicted by the federal government, Mark Noss responded on December 6, 2013 to a November 24, 3013 email from Steven Ingersoll regarding a dispute that arose after the Grand Traverse Academy Board’s November 8, 2013 meeting.
According to government documents released in connection with Ingersoll’s sentencing hearing, Ingersoll sent the November 24, 2013 email to Noss denouncing CPA firm Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth's presentation of the “final audit and unexpected finding that implied ‘abuse’ of public funds.”
In the email, Ingersoll complained to Noss that DGN had based its finding “on their stated position that SSM had not transferred cash to service the FYE accounts receivable balance on GTA’s books at FYE 12.” Ingersoll appears to be disputing DGN’s contention that he had not transferred cash from his accounts to the Grand Traverse Academy to “service the FYE accounts receivable balance” during the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.
In his email to Mark Noss, Ingersoll reminds Noss that “I disputed that contention both verbally and in management’s written response. The auditors verbally repeatedly stated that there was no evidence of cash transfers. I have stated that bank statements that they should have reviewed would confirm those transfers. I have attached the confirming bank statements for your review. Please share these statements with your board member colleagues to give them comfort that those transfers did occur.”
Noss responded to Ingersoll on December 9, 2013, assuring him that he has “sent these bank statements to all board members and followed up with phone calls to each member to discuss this. Every board member saw and understood that these transfers took place and agreed that no ‘abuse of funds’ took place. We are all comfortable that we made the right decision in accepting management’s response to the audit.”
The revelations, detailed extensively on this blog, continue with Kaye Mentley, Steven Ingersoll and Mark Noss banding together to help Steve.
My post titled “It Is Up To The Three Of Us” reveals the lengths the trio went in their attempt to refute the abuse of funds allegations and, in the words of Steven Ingersoll,“just acknowledge facts”.
Maybe the Record-Eagle will take a closer look at the June 30, 2016 balance sheet distributed during yesterday's meeting: the reference to Smart Schools Management has been deleted from a $253,449.61 Prepaid Expenses line item.
Here's the original version, as revealed exclusively on this blog!
Wondering what else will happen? Stay tuned!