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Wake County School Leaders Reveal New Details In Transportation Scandal

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RALEIGH, N.C. — New details emerged Tuesday from Wake County School System leaders on how former workers got away with spending over $2 million in public money on private purchases.

The school system suspects former transportation director Vern Hatley and four people under him devised a scheme with two managers from Barnes Motor & Parts.

School officials say the employees would order fake parts and the Barnes employees would bill them. Hatley would then indicate the order was delivered.

"And then the individuals involved in the scheme benefited personally from that point forward," Wake County Schools Associate Superintendent Del Burns said.

WRAL obtained documents that show transportation employees Carol Finch and Pam Stewart had appliances and home electronics sent to their homes, paid with a check from Barnes.

Documents requested by WRAL indicate the transportation department's business with Barnes Motor & Parts went from $200,000 to more than $4 million over three years.

The Wake school system said the fraud was difficult to detect because it involved managers. Eventually, an internal audit did catch suspicious activity.

"To give you an idea, our total budget is $1.2 billion," Burns said. "Every day in the accounting process, we process a little over $3.5 million."

Burns said the school system has since changed its accounting procedures.

County Commission Chair Joe Bryan said it is difficult for the public image too. Bryan said he does not know if the investigation of the bus yard will impact the school system's upcoming budget, which includes a request for an extra $29 million from county commissioners.

In its budget proposal, the school system cut $2 million from the transportation department.

During the ongoing criminal investigation, several former school and Barnes employees returned hundreds of thousands of dollars in money and merchandise.

Barnes gave more than $1 million back to the Wake County School System, which later cut ties with the company.

The school system returned $400,000 in transportation money to the state.

Wake County School System Superintendent Bill McNeal was offered the opportunity to talk on-air with WRAL. He said it was not an appropriate time because of the on-going investigation.

Regarding the next budget, McNeal said, "We (the school board) broke this investigation, we brought in the SBI, and we believe the county commissioners will see that we have been good stewards of our money."

The superintendent said he would talk openly about the case once the investigation is complete.

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