Former Lake Ridge official’s assets frozen
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/302-0949 May 16, 2013 3:06PM
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:21AM
A preliminary agreement approved by a Jasper Superior Court judge Wednesday freezes the assets of former Lake Ridge Schools business manager James W. Huddleston and orders him to provide a monthly accounting of expenses.
Judge James R. Ahler signed the agreement sought by state officials earlier this month after they said an audit showed Huddleston misspent more than $133,000 of school district money on personal expenses including credit cards, utility and orthodontist bills, and payments to auto dealers. The state is seeking restitution of $141,149, which includes $7,000 for the special state audit.
Huddleston, of Wheatfield, resigned from Lake Ridge abruptly April 4, but school officials downplayed concerns of wrongdoing. Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley said in a statement then that an investigation of financial data would begin. The statement said Huddleston quit because of personal financial reasons.
Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the agreement means Huddleston can’t transfer, sell or conceal assets such as a house or vehicles or dispose of bank accounts until the matter is resolved. The court allowed Huddleston to spend $3,840 on routine monthly expenses but he must provide a monthly accounting to the state.
Corbin said the agreement keeps Huddleston’s assets available until the State Board of Accounts completes a final audit.
In a preliminary audit, state examiners discovered that more than $150,000 — mostly refunds from employee health care and prescription drug benefit programs intended for the school’s self-insurance fund — was instead deposited into the savings account set up by Huddleston. He withdrew $133,624 in cash and checks from the account between July 2011 and April 2013, which caused the school to incur $525 in credit union fees.
As business manager, Huddleston advocated for the closing of Grissom Elementary School because it would save the cash-strapped district $1.7 million. The Lake Ridge School Board voted to close the school March 25.