Mount Pleasant district deals with theft charge against school bus driver, cover-up claims

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: May 30, 2012, 1:09 PM

 

A veteran bus driver charged with stealing money from the Mount Pleasant School District will continue to drive the district's lone bus for the time being, school district officials said.

The Washougal-based K-6 school district is waiting for the state Auditor Office's report before deciding Cheryl Randall's future employment status, Superintendent Linda Slattery said.

Board member Thomas Schlatter has publicly called for Randall's dismissal, saying he felt compelled to speak out so he would not be associated with a perceived cover-up.

Randall, a 27-year school district veteran, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Camas-Washougal Municipal Court to a misdemeanor theft charge alleging she used a district credit card to purchase gas for her personal vehicle. The 59-year-old has a hearing scheduled for June 28 on a third-degree theft charge.

Randall confessed to using a district credit card to purchase gas for her personal vehicle numerous times at Hi-Way Fuel in Washougal, according to a report written by Thad Eakins of the Washougal Police Department. She allegedly stole $500, Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said.

Under state law, the school district was required to report the missing money to the state agency, auditor's office spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said. There is no timetable for when the auditor's investigation will be complete. The auditor's office does not have enforcement authority.

The accusations have created tension among board members, Schlatter said.

The district has only five employees and 55 students. Before the court appearance, Schlatter did not name which of Mount Pleasant's five employees was accused of criminal wrongdoing.

However, court records revealed it to be Randall, who is the district's building maintenance, recess, cafeteria and custodial supervisor, in addition to bus driver.

"I want to make the information public," Schlatter said. "I do not want to be associated with the school board president's actions. I want to be proactive."

Board president Dolores Nelson advised Slattery not to take action against the employee, Schlatter said he learned from one-on-one conversations with his fellow council members.

"There's the appearance of covering up the facts by at least one member of the school board," Schlatter said.

Board members contacted for this story refused to address Schlatter's statements, due to potential legal ramifications tied to the case.

"I have a lot of thoughts but I can't say anything," Slattery said, noting she needed to contact legal counsel.

Board member Karl Kanthak refused comment for the same reason as Slattery. Both referred a reporter to Nelson.

Nelson refused to address Schlatter's comments.

"There have been no findings from the state auditor's office," the board president said.

Randall did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend;www.twitter.com/col_smallcities;ray.legendre@columbian.com