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Ex-PTA officer accused of theft

Felony count filed in debit card loss tallying $24,439

Rothenberger

It apparently began with a debit card that she – and only she – had access to use.

That's how investigators believe a Fort Wayne woman stole nearly $24,500 from Arlington Elementary School's PTA accounts last year.

Allen County prosecutors formally charged Susan M. Rothenberger, 45, of the 5100 block of West Arlington Park Boulevard, with one felony count of theft Monday.

Rothenberger had been the treasurer of the school's PTA organization during 2012, according to Allen Superior Court documents.

During that time, she's accused of using a debit card to withdraw cash at various times, ultimately taking $24,439.50 from the PTA accounts, court documents said.

The missing money was discovered after an audit was conducted at the behest of the school's principal, who became concerned with what she thought were discrepancies in financial accounting records.

Two volunteers from the Indiana PTA performed the audit this past August and tracked all the money to Rothenberger's debit card.

"We highly recommend not using debit cards," Fort Wayne area PTA Council President Kathie Green said.

In fact, Green said school PTA's are strongly encouraged and trained to have two-signature accounts, to ensure that at least two people are double-checking financial records at all times.

That was apparently not happening at Arlington Elementary while Rothenberger was PTA treasurer, though.

"We have 50 PTAs we supervise. Forty-nine of them were doing things right," Green said of area PTAs.

After the missing money was discovered, Green scheduled training sessions for PTA treasurers this past month.

The sessions were partly because of the missing money, but also to refine or go over ways to properly keep track of finances.

The situation involving Rothenberger has not hindered the confidence Fort Wayne Community Schools officials have in the PTA, which is present in every one of the district's schools.

"We appreciate the partnership that we have with the PTA," district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

"And because the PTA has state and national oversight, they were able to find the irregularities, and that's exactly why we work with PTAs and not other organizations," Stockman continued.

Rothenberger, also known as Susan Gadwood, was previously charged twice with misdemeanor conversion – once in 2011 and again in 2012.

The case against her in 2011 was eventually dropped. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to the charge and was given a one-year suspended sentence.

She was immediately replaced as treasurer after the shortfall was discovered.

New people have since stepped into officer roles for the PTA at Arlington Elementary. Green said she is "incredibly proud" of the hard work they are doing, especially because they are volunteers walking into what is not exactly an ideal situation.

Green also urged members of her organization to look at the finances for their school's PTA accounts whenever they wanted.

"If you're a member, you have the right and responsibility to look at finances," she said.

A warrant for Rothenberger's arrest has been issued, but as of Monday evening she had not been booked into Allen County Lockup.

She will be looking at a $2,500 bond to be freed upon her arrest.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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