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State Auditor Seeks Probe of Charter School

State Auditor General wants Lehigh County District Attorney to investigate Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School in Bethlehem for questionable payments to staff and their family members, the Morning Call reports.

State Auditor General Jack Wagner is asking the Lehigh County District Attorney's office to conduct an investigation of possible "improper payments" made by the Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School in Bethlehem, according to a story in The Morning Call

Wagner's office released an audit Monday that found that the school's former Chief Executive Officer Naomi Grossman paid herself $100,000 in bonuses in addition to her salary to operate the charter school and its nonprofit preschool during the period of July 1, 2006 to Oct. 21, 2010. 

The audit also found that some of Grossman's family members received compensation with no documentation about what they were paid for. Relatives of other school employees reportedly also were paid for services with no record of approval from the school's board of trustees. 

The audit found that Grossman, who was also the founder and CEO for the nonprofit Vitalistic Therapeutic Center, treated the two entities as if they were one organization, according to a news release from Wagner's office. Until recently, the charter school, which opened in 2001, and the Vitalistic Therapeutic Center shared a board of trustees and also a campus. Auditors found that the CEO moved taxpayer dollars between the school and the center.  

"The Department of Education should aggressively seek repayment of misused taxpayer funds from the Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School, and any other school that violates state law governing the use of public education dollars," Wagner said in the release. 

The school's fiscal problems and administrative discrepancies were first exposed in a Morning Call report in November 2011.  

The charter school is still officially open, but the start of its school year has been delayed because it is reportedly looking for a new location. The state Department of Education is said to be considering a Bethlehem Area School District request to take over supervision of the charter school.  

Wagner’s audit, including the school management’s response, is available to the public at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us. 

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