Sex, money and lies in Clyde

CLYDE Clyde-Green Springs Schools severed ties with superintendent Todd Helms on Monday night, revea
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

CLYDE

Clyde-Green Springs Schools severed ties with superintendent Todd Helms on Monday night, revealing Helms stole more than $26,000 from the district and used a district computer for a sexual relationship.

Board president Tom Conley read a resolution listing misconduct by Helms before the board voted to accept his resignation effective Sept. 8. Helms had been on paid administrative leave since July 28 after district treasurer Alan Binger discovered irregularities in invoices.

The resolution stated Helms created a fictitious company called GTR Enterprises, from which he pretended to buy supplies such as boiler parts for the district. He would then sign off on the purchase order, verifying the parts had arrived, even though they had not. The district would then send payment for the parts to GTR Enterprises, addressed to a post office box rented by the company.

The district's attorney, Michael Loughman, said, "We've determined that the post office box was established by Mr. Helms."

He also said the checks were never endorsed, indicating someone put them into a bank account for deposit only.

The district found Helms issued 13-14 invoices for GTR Enterprises between 2005-06 and 2007-08, totaling $26,334.90 for parts that never arrived.

"I've been doing this for 35 years, and this is the first time I've seen such a scheme," Loughman said.

Board members and school officials declined to comment, referring questions to Loughman.

Loughman said Helms' scheme went unnoticed because of the amount of building and maintenance work going on at the district. He said Helms was highly involved in construction at the district and was careful to create orders only when the district had projects underway. He did not issue any invoices for the 2006-07 school year. Loughman said the district followed state law, requiring the party issuing the purchase order to verify the order had arrived.

Loughman said the scheme was unraveled by Binger in July when Binger noticed a purchase order lacked verification a part had arrived. He went to the district's maintenance supervisor to see if the district received the part and found the supervisor was totally unaware of the purchase.

Binger realized something was wrong and reviewed all invoices for GTR Enterprises, Loughman said. He took the matter to the school board and police when he found none of the items were received.

"This is a really good school treasurer," Loughman said. "He is an excellent treasurer."

Clyde Police, the state auditor's office, Federal Bureau of Investigation and postal inspectors have ongoing criminal investigations into Helms' misuse and theft of district funds.

In the course of their investigation, police found Helms used a school computer during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years to conduct a sexual relationship including semi-nude photos with a woman living in Florida. Helms is married and has children in the district, one of whom transferred to a different school when Helms was placed on leave.

Loughman said the board decided to accept Helms' resignation Monday to expedite getting him off the district's payroll. To fire him, the district would have to conduct a Loudermill hearing to give Helms the opportunity to plead his case. That would have increased legal costs and extended his paid leave.

The resolution passed by the board directs the district's administration to cooperate with authorities in the criminal investigation and authorizes them to sue Helms to recoup any stolen or misused money.

"This is a shocking development," Loughman said. "You just don't expect your superintendent to do something like this."

The board made no move to appoint a new superintendent Monday night. Gregg Elchert, the district's assistant superintendent, is acting superintendent until the board decides what they will do with the position.