Clayton County Police are planning to question an announced Clayton County Board of Education candidate about “unaccounted” for funds that are missing from a local Parent-Teacher Association, a police spokesperson has confirmed.
The Georgia PTA recently contacted police to notify them that the funds had gone missing from the PTA chapter at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, in College Park, according to police spokesman Officer Gary Syblis. He added that investigators are looking to speak with Xavier Ross, who was the PTA chapter’s treasurer when the funds were deemed missing.
Syblis could not specify exactly how much money is missing, but a school system letter to police shows it was “thousands of dollars.” Police are not yet accusing Ross of stealing any money, however, the police spokesman stressed.
“He is not a suspect at this time,” Syblis said. “He is merely a ‘person of interest’ that we would like to speak with.”
Ross, 21, of Jonesboro, filed a declaration of intent to run for the Clayton County Board of Education’s District 5 seat, against School Board Member Ophelia Burroughs, with state officials on April 24, according to the Georgia Government Campaign Finance Commission’s web site.
A federal judge has placed an injunction barring Clayton County school board elections from taking place until an undetermined time, because of issues involving the population map for each school board district, however. Neither the Republican or Democratic parties in Clayton County signed up candidates for school boards during last week’s candidate qualifying period as a result of the injunction.
Ross was also briefly a candidate for the school board’s District 4 seat in 2010, until he was disqualified because he was 19 at the time, and therefore too young to run for the office.
School system Superintendent Edmond Heatley has also contacted county Police Chief Greg Porter about the missing monies, according to a May 23 letter that the Clayton News Daily obtained from the district through an open records request.
The letter shows officials at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School began raising questions about the PTA funds in February. The district has still not been provided with information about where the money went, according to the letter.
“This correspondence comes as a formal report of an alleged crime that took place at Martin Luther King [Jr.] Elementary School,” Heatley wrote in the letter. “It has been alleged that former PTA Treasurer, Mr. Xavier Ross, has not accounted for thousands of dollars that he was entrusted with depositing into the appropriate PTA bank account for the purpose of paying for items for students at the school ...
“As a result of this occurrence, our students were denied the opportunity to receive promised and needed resources,” Heatley wrote. “Additionally, multiple vendors have not received payments for goods and services provided, which has hampered the school and district’s ability to do business or partner with these local businesses.”
Syblis said investigators have been conducting interviews with people tied to the school, as they continue to look into what happened to the money, however. “We have spoken with PTA members and staff from the school, and we are continuing to investigate the matter,” he said.
Ross declared in a written statement that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. He also accused school system officials, including Heatley, of alleging he was responsible for the missing funds to derail his school board candidacy.
Ross pledged to move forward with his plans to run for the school board’s District 5 seat.
“I, Xavier Ross, declare and affirm the highest level of innocence in regards to the allegations in part, made by Superintendent, Edmond T. Heatley, of a PTA that was called into question long before I was asked to help,” Ross wrote in his statement. “I have not committed a crime and this attack on my character and integrity is nothing more than a malicious politically motivating [sic] scare tactic ...
“I am furthermore alarmed that these types of allegations and statements are being made after I publically [sic] declared my candidacy for the Clayton County School Board.”
School system spokesman Douglas Hendrix could not be reached for comment, in response to Ross’ assertions.
Heatley copied the letter to a long list of local government, law enforcement and PTA officials, including school board Chairperson Pam Adamson, county District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker, county Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, Georgia PTA District 7 Director Cyd Cox and Assistant District Director James Ojeda.
Cox said state PTA officials have asked the group’s local officials to not comment to the media about the unaccounted for funds. Georgia PTA President Donna Kosicki said Thursday that she needed time to prepare a comment on the matter, because she was in the middle of planning an upcoming event at the state PTA offices.