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 Criminal Investigation into CAB Identity Deceptions Unlikely

February 14, 2007 - As things presently stand, it appears the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation will not report several recent instances of identity deception and forgery – acts that could constitute felonies – to law enforcement officials.

CAB Superintendent David McGuire told The Banner on Tuesday that he does not plan to file a report with authorities over six phony e-mails and an altered document someone sent The Banner between January 19 and 23. The sender of each of the e-mails and the altered document falsely claimed to be Jena Schmidt, CAB’s public access officer and assistant to McGuire, and had used the e-mail account of the school corporation’s former business manager, Amanda Zurwell.

McGuire said an internal investigation failed to reveal who was responsible for sending the e-mails. He also said CAB could not determine whether the computer used to send the e-mails had been the one in Zurwell’s former office, or if her e-mail account had been accessed by someone else using another machine, either inside or outside the school corporation.

“This is something that is public knowledge, so it’s not like we’re trying to cover it up,” McGuire said. “They would send a detective over here and he would ask us if we have anything to back up what we are saying, and the answer is, no, we don’t.”

The phony e-mails sent to The Banner alleged “much scandal” and included unsubstantiated allegations of employees being terminated and an improper funding source being used to pay another employees salary. After reviewing the e-mails, McGuire told The Banner that the allegations are untrue.

The altered document in issue is a memo dealing with personnel matters that purports to have been written by McGuire, with the identity of the person to whom it is addressed not revealed. After reviewing this document, McGuire identified it as a memo he had written, but said it had been altered to include several negative comments about the school board and some CAB employees that he said he did not write.

McGuire said any law enforcement investigation into the phony e-mails and altered memo would likely be hindered by the fact that CAB couldn’t identify the person or persons responsible for these acts. “They would have to depend on our equipment to trace it,” he said. “It seems to me like it would a monumental waste of their time. I’d rather that they spend their time pursuing our other issue.”

That other issue is an investigation by the Henry County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Board of Accounts into Zurwell’s work at CAB. McGuire told The Banner last week that an interim business manager working for the school corporation had identified some issues of concern, but declined to provide any details.

Zurwell, who started work as CAB’s business manager in September, is also being investigated by authorities in Brown County over allegations that she may have misappropriated close to $3,000 belonging to her former employer, the Brown County School Corporation. Brown County Prosecutor Jim Oliver told The Banner last Friday that his office is still awaiting bank records he said should show whether or not Zurwell had deposited a nearly $3,000 check for BCSC into her own account.

The CAB School Board accepted a letter of resignation from Zurwell on January 23. In the letter, which was dated and said to take effect on January 19, Zurwell said she had “been diagnosed with a medical condition” that would not allow her “to return to work for an indefinite amount of time.”

According to a recent billing statement from CAB’s attorney, Michael Wallman, it appears Zurwell’s departure may have also been precipitated, at least partially, by the events in Brown County. An entry on the bill for January 16 indicates Wallman spent nearly an hour that day speaking by phone with the superintendent at BCSC, then calling Zurwell’s home, e-mailing “instructions” and then having two more phone conversations with Zurwell and doing some research.

Wallman’s billing statement further indicates that on January 19, he had “several” e-mail exchanges with Zurwell. The attorney also had phone conversations about Zurwell with McGuire on January 19 and January 22.

Zurwell’s letter of resignation acknowledged some contact with Wallman to discuss issues involving compensation for earned personnel leave days. However, it is not clear from her letter if the numerous phone calls and e-mails that went back and forth between her and Wallman from January 15 through January 22 were limited to that one issue.

Over the past few weeks, Zurwell has declined to respond to numerous messages The Banner has left for her. However, a small amount of additional information from Zurwell has come to light in an e-mail she sent Schmidt on February 2.

“I have finally been released from restricted bed rest and now on just regular bed rest,” Zurwell wrote, “which means that I can be up and about an hour or so at a time.” She told Schmidt she was writing to make arrangements to pick up some belongings she had left at the office, and asked if Schmidt would be willing to meet her somewhere so that she could avoid coming to the office.

“I hope you also understand that things aren’t always what they seem, and the past few weeks have been an intense struggle for me,” Zurwell wrote toward the end of the e-mail. “However, I am confident that the situation will pan out exactly as it should, and in the meantime, I will be concentrating on keeping this baby healthy until he joins us.”

 

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