Tenth Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen is currently reviewing a state audit of the Hamburg School District that found improprieties in the district’s free and reduced-price lunch eligibility reports.
The district’s child nutrition director, who has since resigned, altered 54 applications for free and reduced-price meals to enable as many as 60 ineligible students to qualify for free or reduced-price meals during 2012 and 2013, according to the audit report.
“In 2012, we also examined 40 unaltered applications for free and reduced-price meals and noted one application was improperly approved as free instead of reduced-price,” the state audit report said. “In addition, based on statements given, employees and parents of students did not properly report household size and/or income to qualify for free or reduced-price meals in both fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The amount of excess reimbursement for the ineligible students could not be readily determined.”
The district was serving free breakfast to all students without amending its agreement with the Arkansas Department of Education Child Nutrition Unit or contributing the required funds to the child nutrition program, according to the audit.
The audit findings were reported Friday to the Legislative Joint Audit Committee and turned over to Deen.
Deen said he has discussed the matter with Hamburg Superintendent Max Dyson but has not yet completed his investigation into the allegations, therefore it would be premature to say whether there will be criminal charges filed.
“No charges of any kind are contemplated against any parent or guardian who may have falsified an application,” Deen said. “Our attention is directed solely to the responsible school personnel.”
Meanwhile, the district repaid the local child nutrition fund approximately $44,000 for breakfast meals served to all students. The school board voted to continue to pay the cost of breakfast for all students not eating free for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year from non-federal sources.
Also, the district has sought guidance from the Arkansas Department of Education.
Because the district incorrectly reported the number of students eligible for the National School Lunch program the last two years, it could lose a considerable amount in NSL categorical funding next year.
Dyson said he spoke Wednesday with Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell in an attempt to get the matter resolved.