Mesa investigation: Fraud at arts center - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Mesa investigation: Fraud at arts center

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Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:33 pm | Updated: 5:02 pm, Thu Jul 19, 2012.

A fraud investigation at the Mesa Arts Center claims that a temporary employee was paid for work he didn’t do, that donated funds were misused, and that some employees let people take classes for free.

The city disciplined some employees while police recommended criminal charges against the temp, according to a report released Thursday.

The most significant amount of money involved was $12,000 in funds that donors gave to cover the attendance of kids who could not otherwise afford to attend, according to the investigation by the city of Mesa auditor. Many kids were admitted without filling out forms that stated family income, so it wasn’t known if they were eligible. Lowell Elementary School children were admitted under the assumption they were eligible, but without checking.

The problems were suspected in September, when MAC’s director at the time, Johann Zietsman, alerted the city auditor. The auditor found four major problems:

• MAC staff mismanaged $12,000 in donor money by not following eligibility rules and clearing $730 owed by a patron who defaulted.

• Staff let patrons, including one city employee, register with a partial payment or for nothing. Some fees were never collected and were forgiven under the direction of employee Jenny Akridge. The amount totalled $2,066.

• Temporary contract employee Jeff Rollins was paid about $7,000 for hours he did not work. Mesa police recommended charges against him, which is under consideration by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

• Two children of employee Cory Simms attended an arts camp after their registration was cancelled and Simms received funds of $1,735.

As a result of the audit, the arts center changed several policies to boost oversight. Only certain employees have the authority to process transactions or give fee discounts. The city also wrote policies to ensure donor money is documented so it’s used as directed, and only certain supervisors can approve time cards.

The city did not release any information Thursday about who was disciplined.

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