Clyde school chief on paid leave during investigation

CLYDE The Clyde-Green Springs school board placed superintendent Todd Helms on paid leave Monday nig
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

CLYDE

The Clyde-Green Springs school board placed superintendent Todd Helms on paid leave Monday night, pending an investigation by the state auditor's office and Clyde police.

The board appointed assistant superintendent Greg Elchert to lead the district until the situation is resolved.

School board president Tom Conley said the investigation involves irregularities in the district's purchase invoices. The invoices were approved by the superintendent.

He declined any further comment, saying he did not want to jeopardize the investigation.

There is conflicting information as to what triggered the investigation.

Clyde police Chief Bruce Gower issued a statement Tuesday saying the investigation started Saturday when school district treasurer Alan Binger contacted Gower. School officials and legal counsel met with police Sunday, the statement said.

Police searched board offices at 106 S. Main St. on Monday, seizing four computers and other items. The police department asked the state auditor's office and Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt to assist in the investigation, Gower said.

State auditor spokeswoman Emily Frazee, however, said the investigation was initiated when a tip was left Monday on the auditor's fraud hotline, 866-FRAUD-OH.

"Our fraud hotline is really for anyone involved in government, citizens, employees -- anyone who wants to report an instance in which tax dollars are being misused or misspent or are in jeopardy," Frazee said.

She said the auditor's office contacted the district to discuss the tip, and later contacted Clyde police.

Frazee said she did not know who left the tip, and said tips are often anonymous.

Frazee said the school district's treasurer contacted the auditor's office to request a special investigation of the district's invoices. She said her office is considering how it will move forward.

Neither Frazee nor Gower was available Tuesday evening to clear up the discrepancy.

The school district is required by law to submit to a state audit every two years. Frazee said a special audit would include an intensive look into one area of concern.

"We really go through everything with a fine-toothed comb to see if any money has been misspent," Frazee said.

She said the investigation will move as swiftly as possible, but would likely take months to complete.

"Should there be criminal charges involved, it could take a bit longer," she said.