Fowler HS principal expenses questioned

Laura Viera-Suarez

An internal audit obtained by Action News raises serious questions about the Principal of Fowler High School and her handling of district money. Most of the questionable expenditures and reimbursements come from Extraclassroom Activity Funds, or ECA accounts. Such accounts are notorious for sloppy book-keeping.

But the internal audit, dated April 21st, outlines a number of wrongdoings involving Principal Laura Vieira-Suarez who denies the allegations.

"We've kept track of everything that's going on. In fact Fowler High School has implemented tremendous safeguards for fundraisers and so on." she said.

Among the findings the audit:

{>}{>}The principal was twice reimbursed for a New York City trip and had to repay 897 dollars to the District;

{>}{>}That she double-billed and potentially covered up a pizza party expenditure. The auditor advised the school board to "consider the seriousness of this finding.";

{>}{>}That she used 420 dollars for a staff party out of a student fund;

{>}{>}And "numerous checks were made out to the personal credit card of the principal."

"My response to this is this was done by a board auditor and I responded to everything that's in there." says Vieira-Suarez of her response to the audit which she submitted to the School Board on May 3rd.

School Superintendent Dan Lowengard reviewed both the audit and told Action News: "I don't think there's any issue of stolen money, missing money any of that kind of thing."

When asked if an outside investigatory agency should be called in, Lowengard replied: "Once we do our due diligence and I think our due diligence is to let the school respond to how it was done, then you have our auditors take a look at it and then at that point I will present it all to the board of education."

Lowengard says the State Comptroller's office is already conducting what he calls a routine audit of the District and it is aware of the internal audit.

Principal Vieira -Suarez was hired two years ago by Superintendent Lowengard. She came from Utica where Lowengard was once Superintendent.