Details of a police investigation and legislative audit report shed new light on possible financial improprieties and criminal violations at a New Orleans public charter school.
A New Orleans police report obtained by WWL television details allegations that officials at James Singleton Charter School, which is run by the Dryades YMCA in Central City, fabricated criminal background checks for employees of school. An internal school investigation attached to the police department’s incident report suggests that the Y’s recently resigned financial director, Catrina Reed, may have played a role in the fake background checks, including her own background check in 2005, which indicated that she had no rap. leaf when she did.
And a Louisiana legislative audit contains a NOLA public schools report that questions thousands of dollars in credit card spending, checks cashed by recently retired CEO Doug Evans, and the use of a credit card verification company. background belonging to Evans’ wife.
Reed worked at the Dryades YMCA from 2006 until August 2019. She was rehired in June 2020 with a salary of $100,000, according to the audit. But the report wonders how she also managed to raise $15,400 in just two months as an entrepreneur, before being rehired as chief financial officer.
Emails attached to the police report show NOLA Public Schools requested a background check on school employees after a school system official discovered that a new school employee had committed a criminal offense involving a minor in his file. Such an offense should have prohibited his employment.
Leaders of the Dryads YMCA walked out amid evidence of falsified employee records at Singleton Charter
Singleton School Principal Erika Mann said she turned to Reed to do background checks on employees hired more than five years ago. Mann discovered that five of the old background checks provided by Reed used duplicate background check case numbers. Mann requested new background checks directly from state police, who showed rap sheets for five of the employees whose old background checks for Reed showed no arrest records.
Mann’s emails show that Reed even provided her own background check from 2005, shortly before she was hired by the Y, which showed she had no criminal record. But Mann’s report says new background checks she ordered showed an employee with the initials “CR” was arrested in 1996 for bank fraud, bank robbery and embezzlement, and in 1999 for flight.
Separate federal court filings show that Reed was arrested on those charges in 1996 and ended up pleading guilty to robbery at a bank where she worked.
Mann’s report says NOLA Public Schools ordered him to report his findings to the police.
“Where information is provided that may require additional detail, we advise schools to contact the appropriate authorities,” NOLA Public Schools spokesperson Taslin Alfonzo said. “NOLA-PS is not an investigative body.”
WWL has contacted Reed several times for comment. A man answered the phone at her home on Tuesday, identified himself as Reed’s husband and asked a reporter to stop calling.
The audit also raises questions about Evans, the former CEO who retired last month after 45 years at the Y, shortly after the first background check was announced. During the audit, the school system questions payments made by the Y to Y Not Check Background & Fingerprinting, a company owned by Evans’ wife, Yolanda Doucette. The company used to take employee fingerprints for background checks, according to sources close to the audit.
Rather than revoke the contracts of four F-rated charter schools, Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. and his team have…
The audit also says Evans signed YMCA checks totaling $10,388.98 denominated in “cash” without providing an adequate explanation.
Evans did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. Last month he told WWL he would await the results of the investigation. “I have always taken full responsibility for everything that happened under my leadership,” he said at the time.
Councilman Jay Banks worked for years at the YMCA with Evans and Reed. He was director of the Y’s School of Business until he joined the city council in 2018, and he continues to use an office at the Y as a volunteer. He said people who have dedicated themselves to the Y’s mission to serve the Central City community are devastated by the scandals.
“I look forward to the completion of this investigation so that whoever these people can be held accountable and the Y can move on, continuing to do the kind of work it has been doing for nearly 120 years.” , Banks said.
Banks and others supported Evans.
“A lifetime of commitment to this community has now been questioned by some for an action that someone else did,” Banks said. “It’s unfortunate, but I understand. Again, he’s the leader, so he’s ultimately responsible.
Last year, Evans gave Banks a $5,000 campaign contribution, double the limit for a district council candidate. Banks’ re-election campaign reported four other $5,000 contributions in 2020. When WWL asked Banks about them, he said his campaign fundraiser made a mistake and thanked the station for l to have alerted. He said donors, including Evans, immediately received refunds of $2,500.
Banks and Darren Mire, a longtime YMCA leader and chairman of a new, separate board to run Singleton Charter School, are key members of the Black Organization for Leadership Development, or BOLD. In 2006, Reed registered another group, the Orleans Parish Democratic Leadership Committee, with the office of the Louisiana Secretary of State. Banks said he was unfamiliar with this group and said Reed had no affiliation with BOLD.
Banks would not comment on the allegations against Reed.