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Apollo-Ridge's ex-food services director charged with stealing $46,000

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 6:37 p.m.

A longtime Apollo-Ridge School District food services manager who is accused of taking almost $46,000 from the district has waived all charges to court.

Kathleen A. Smathers, 48, of Rome Street, Burrell Township, Indiana County, is charged with theft of more than $45,600 and receiving stolen property from the district, which has about 1,300 students.

Smathers, who worked for the district about 15 years until she resigned last fall, was charged Jan. 18 by Kiski Township police and she waived charges to court the same day.

She is free awaiting trial in lieu of $10,000 nonmonetary bond.On Monday, Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi said that a county detective and police met with Smathers and her attorney in October after first being contacted by the school district.

She resigned.

In an affidavit, police said Smathers told them she was unhappy her contract was reduced by two months to 10 months a year, resulting in a pay cut of about $10,000.She also said she was unhappy the district allegedly didn't credit her accrued vacation days. And while off work for surgery, she “did work at home for no compensation.”

School board president Gregory Primm said Smathers was once responsible for a summer lunch program at a school in Apollo, but those duties largely ended when the elementary schools were consolidated.

He said Smathers' interpretation about accrued hours is “much different” than the district's view.

School Superintendent Matthew E. Curci said officials are examining whether to hire a manager or a management company.

Steps have also been taken to address the shortage identified first by district auditors.

The affidavit alleges that Smathers admitted to taking about $50 a day during the 2010-11 school year and in 2011-12 she started to taking $100 daily.

She allegedly took money on each of the first two days of this school year, but then stopped.

Smathers said she used the food services computer to get the money. At the end of the day, she would do paperwork for money in the cash drawers and would enter a random student's account, void that transaction and mark in instead payment taken with the notation “void as prepayment taken.”

That took money from the district, not any students, the affidavit said.

School officials worked with district auditors to address what Smathers is accused of doing, Curci said.

“We will build on that,” he said.

The affidavit claims Smathers confessed to police because she “felt guilty” and “feels that the school auditors are closing in on her.”Smathers thought she took about $35,000 but a school district audit alleges she took about $10,000 more than that.

Andreassi said there was no agreement at the October meeting for Smathers to pay restitution, but full payment is anticipated.

He said the suspect hasn't previously been charged with criminal offenses.

A trial has not been scheduled.

School officials contacted the DA's office, and police and county detectives investigated after that.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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