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 Former CAB Administrator Charged with Theft

March 21, 2007 - Felony theft charges were filed in Brown County last week against the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation's former business manager, Amanda (Harvey) Zurwell.

Zurwell, who abruptly resigned her position with CAB in January after only four months on the job, is alleged to have stolen a $3,132 check last summer that belonged to the Brown County School Corporation (BCSC), her former employer. Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver filed documents with the Brown Circuit Court on Friday formally charging the former BCSC treasurer with a single count of theft, and the court issued a warrant for Zurwell's arrest.

Brown County law enforcement began investigating this incident in late December after BCSC officials discovered the missing check while reviewing financial records over Christmas break. According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court, Zurwell admitted taking the check when police interviewed her December 28.

"I spoke with Amanda … who told me she had been going through some personal problems and that she deposited the check in her own account to pay some bills," Chief Deputy Marshal Stephanie Loerzel of the Nashville Police Department stated in the probable cause affidavit. Loerzel also said banking records recently obtained by the Brown County Prosecutor's office confirm that Zurwell deposited the check - a refund issued to the BCSC's superintendent for a trip that was not taken - into her personal account at National City Bank on July 24.

The theft charge Zurwell is facing in Brown County is a Class D felony. If convicted, she could face up to three years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

In addition to the criminal charges she is facing in Brown County, Zurwell's work for CAB has also been the subject of recent scrutiny by the State Board of Accounts. After her resignation from CAB in January, the SBA was asked to take a look at what CAB Superintendent David McGuire told The Banner were some "questionable business things" involving Zurwell's work here. The SBA has not yet issued a report detailing what, if anything, it found during this review.

Zurwell was hired in mid-August to be CAB's business manager, and she began work in early September. Her last day in the office, according to McGuire, was January 11 - around the same time he said he learned of the Brown County investigation - and her letter of resignation, dated January 19, was accepted by the CAB School Board during a special meeting on January 23.

In her letter of resignation, Zurwell told McGuire and the school board she had "been diagnosed with a medical condition" that would not allow her "to return to work for an indefinite amount of time." However, billing statements CAB has received from its attorneys indicate that Zurwell's abrupt departure may have also been the result, at least partially, of the events in Brown County.

According to a billing statement dated January 31, attorney Michael Wallman spent almost an hour on January 16 speaking by phone with the BCSC superintendent, calling Zurwell at home, e-mailing "instructions," and then having two more telephone conversations with Zurwell and researching some unidentified issue or issues. Wallman's billing statement also shows him having "several" e-mail exchanges with Zurwell on January 19, the same date as her letter of resignation.

The Banner has attempted to contact Zurwell numerous times since her resignation from CAB, the most recent time being Tuesday afternoon. She has not returned any of the newspaper's calls.

Shortly after Zurwell resigned, The Banner filed a record request with CAB asking for copies of public records related to the former business manager, including certain e-mails Zurwell had sent or received since November 1. In response to this request, CAB notified The Banner that Zurwell's e-mails and those of other central office employees were lost during a recent technology upgrade.

CAB's failure to protect the e-mails of Zurwell and other central office employees from loss or destruction prompted The Banner to file a formal complaint with the state's Public Access Counselor earlier this month. The PAC is expected to issue an advisory opinion the first week of April addressing whether or not CAB violated the state's Access to Public Records Act when it failed to preserve the e-mails during its technology upgrade.

 

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