Auditor: ESC spent funds in error

Published 1:07 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

COLUMBUS — Ohio Auditor Dave Yost says the latest audit of the Lawrence County Academy attributes nearly $234,000 in spending errors to the former charter school’s sponsor and treasurer.

The academy’s previous audit released in April reported similar errors that caused the academy to be charged $92,906 during fiscal year 2014 for the expenses of its sponsor, the Lawrence County Educational Service Center (ESC). Teresa Lawless was treasurer of both the ESC and the academy.

The audit recently released shows that Lawless charged another $196,965 to the academy during fiscal year 2015 for the salaries and benefits of five ESC employees who never worked at the school. She also charged the academy a combined $5,631 in 2015 and 2016 for some of her own benefits, which should have been covered by the ESC.

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“Accuracy and order are essential to the financial operations of any organization,” Yost said. “Ms. Lawless’ shoddy performance as treasurer left the academy’s books riddled with errors and in a state of disarray.”

In August 2015, Lawless made a duplicate payment of $31,135 from the academy to the ESC for administrative services the ESC provided in November and December 2014. Records show the ESC had already received a full payment for the services a few months earlier.

Auditors issued a $233,731 finding for recovery against the ESC with Lawless and her bonding company jointly liable for the full amount. The academy closed on June 30, 2017. As a result, repayment is owed to the Ohio Department of Education.

A special audit of the ESC released in May 2017 named Lawless responsible for billing errors and misspending that cost the ESC more than $38,000. She was also cited for accepting $169,674 in questionable performance incentive payments.

In November 2015, incomplete financial records landed the academy on the Auditor’s “unauditable” list.

A full copy of this report is available online at