Balto. County police investigate missing PTA account money

Mars Estates group says $2,400 gone

ex-official, spouse deny wrongdoing

March 13, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police are investigating the disappearance of thousands of dollars raised by the Mars Estates Elementary School PTA for the purchase of yearbooks and classroom supplies.

Jane Nixon, the Mars Estates PTA's former treasurer, and Arthur Nixon, her husband and a Baltimore police officer, allegedly cashed $2,400 in checks written on a PTA account, PTA officials said. Another $13,000 is missing and can't be accounted for, they said.

Police spokesman Bill Toohey confirmed that the department is investigating a complaint regarding the money, but said he could not comment further.

Arthur Nixon said yesterday that he and his wife cashed checks to pay for cookies, punch and other items for PTA functions. He said he sometimes cashed the checks because he was the only one with access to the family van, but denied they were worth $2,400.

"As far as us benefiting from this money, no," said Nixon, a patrolman for 22 years. "You know my job - this can't happen. I wouldn't be that stupid."

The principal and parents at Mars Estates Elementary in Essex said they were first alerted to possible problems last spring, when some teachers' checks from the PTA to pay for classroom supplies bounced.

That prompted an audit by John Ryan, an official with the PTA Council of Baltimore County. Ryan said he found that Jane Nixon wrote $2,400 in checks to herself, her husband and to cash from the Mars Estates PTA account. Ryan said the audit also showed that Arthur Nixon used his police identification to cash some checks.

Ryan said he could not account for an additional $13,000, which bank statements indicated was withdrawn from the PTA's account during the 2001-2002 fiscal year.

Jane Nixon resigned as treasurer last summer. Her husband said she stepped down because their daughter no longer attended Mars Estates and his wife's school job was eliminated.

"I never pocketed any stuff, neither did my wife," he said.

Robyn Gable, who became PTA president at Mars Estates shortly after Jane Nixon's resignation, said at the time she took over, the PTA was $538 in debt, which the group has sold candles, candy and books to erase.

Principal Roger Proudfoot said the PTA's insurance company has investigated and will reimburse the PTA $3,000 of missing money.

"The good news is we are on the road to recovery," he said.

The school will also get back $4,916 stolen between October 1996 and February 1997 by William E. Devaughn Jr., a former PTA official. Devaughn appeared in Baltimore County Circuit Court on Monday and pleaded guilty to the theft.

According to court records, Devaughn also received a six months' suspended sentence and three years' probation and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.

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