Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack released a contracted audit report for the Ouachita Parish School Board last week that analyzes the school district’s finances for fiscal year 2021-22.

The report details several findings, including the alleged theft of school funds over nearly two years involving a warehouse supervisor and local business owned by a relative.

“The Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney, and Legislative Auditor were all notified,” the report read. “The employee is no longer employed by the School Board. He was arrested in February 2023 and charged with theft of $67,616. No restitution has been made and an insurance claim is pending.”

Court records allege Howze used the school credit card to make online purchases at Amazon that totaled $611.96 in 2020, $17,453 in 2021, and $49,550 in 2022, according to media reports.

Authorities also allege Howze fabricated business invoices for work that did not occur, prompting the district to make checks payable to a local business, Kicks Automotive, owned by a family member, court documents show.

Other findings in the report show the school board did not submit its 2022 audit report within the deadline of six months following the fiscal year. School officials also failed to properly document employee time as required by several federal grants involving the school lunch and breakfast program, as well as Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, known as Title II grants.

“A sample of payroll disbursements was selected to test for numerous attributes including employee and supervisor approval of time,” auditors wrote. “For the Child Nutrition Cluster disbursements five out of 16 disbursements tested did not provide documentation of approval of employee and five out of sixteen disbursements tested did not provide documentation of supervisor approval.

School officials agreed with the report’s findings and vowed to improve the process for documenting employee time. Management also explained the delay for the audit report stemmed from a needed report on benefits that was not received until March 2023.

With Howze, school officials noted the business department detected the inappropriate credit card purchases, and “management is currently working with law enforcement in the ongoing investigation.”