A longtime teacher in the Appoquinimink School District is under investigation for embezzling thousands of dollars from the local teacher's union, according to the union's president.
Appoquinimink Education Association President David Wright sent an e-mail to the union's 670 members Thursday announcing that union treasurer Carol Morris had been suspended in June following the discovery of "financial irregularities" in the union bank account.
"We immediately froze the account and notified [the Delaware State Education Association] and the authorities," he said in the e-mail. "DSEA has assumed trusteeship of AEA's finances and all of AEA's financial obligations are being paid in a timely manner with DSEA's assistance."
Morris, a former Middletown High School math teacher who officially retired Aug. 6 after a 30-year career in the district, is suspected of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from 2010 to early June, according to a source familiar with union finances.
A preliminary report from an independent forensic review of all AEA financial documents has been forwarded to the Delaware State Police, who are conducting an investigation into the alleged theft, Wright said in his e-mail.
Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack confirmed Friday that an investigation into the "financial irregularities" reported by the Appoquinimink Education Association is ongoing, but declined to elaborate further.
Morris could not be reached at her home in Townsend on Friday.
She first became the AEA treasurer in mid-2009 after the former treasurer left the district.
The missing funds first came to the attention of union officials June 11 when the AEA's check card was declined due to insufficient funds, triggering an ongoing forensic review first reported to union members via e-mail on June 20.
The union's check card was reportedly tied to an account that held membership dues typically used by the AEA to pay legal fees, purchase materials for teacher training and fund other membership activities.
Wright, an English teacher at Middletown High, said he has not spoken to Morris since June 10 when she hosted an end-of-the-year party for Middletown High staff at her home.
Her position with the union officially came to an end when her retirement was approved by the school board earlier this month.
"I think the thing that concerns me the most is the impact this case will have on the trust that the membership places in the [union] leadership," he said. "We need to work to restore their confidence in our ability to keep the union's finances safe."
Wright said the treasurer position would remain open until next month when building representatives are scheduled to meet with the union leadership.
In the meantime, he said, the union is working with independent auditors and the DSEA – which represents teachers throughout the state – to implement more stringent accounting and financial reporting practices.
Page 2 of 2 - "That includes requiring better documentation that goes beyond just the treasurer issuing a monthly report," he said. "The leadership will be taking a much more active role in monitoring the finances on an ongoing basis, which is more than what is normally done at the local level. At least, I guess, until something like this happens."