PARKERSBURG - An investigation into misappropriation of funds by a former Wood County Schools principal has been closed and the prosecuting attorney says no criminal charges will be filed.
Ed Alfred, former principal of Jefferson Elementary Center and current candidate for the Wood County Board of Education, said Friday he was told the investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing during his time as administrator of the school system's alternative school, also known as ACE.
A letter sent Friday by Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton to Alfred's attorney, George Cosenza, stated Wharton found no reason to file charges.
"Following analysis of payroll records, interviews and meetings with multiple former and current employees of the ACE program, payroll staff, current and former administrators of the central office, including both a former superintendent and the current superintendent along with the interview conducted with your client, I have closed this investigation," Wharton said in the letter. "While the internal analysis of the payroll records by the administration may have caused concerns, nothing rose to a criminal level and most, if not all, perceived discrepancies were explained through the investigation and analysis of the records and interviews.
"As a result, no criminal charges will be forthcoming."
When contacted Friday, Wharton declined to comment further on the letter or investigation.
District officials say they gave Wharton information on possible misappropriation of funds in early 2011, but no action was taken. In January, Alfred filed to run for school board. In March the school board directed Superintendent Pat Law to look at filing a civil suit against an unnamed administrator to reclaim money paid to himself and 35 employees for work officials said was never done.
Though the school board never publicly named Alfred as the focus of its investigation, records released by the board showed more than $53,000 in payroll discrepancies during the time when Alfred managed the ACE program, including more than $30,000 paid to the program administrator.
On Friday Alfred declined to explain the $30,000 the board said he overpaid to himself through the alternative program.
"I'm not going to go into that right now. It's very complicated," he said. "In a nutshell, they basically jumped to conclusions, their own conclusions, because they did not understand the payroll sheets.
"They didn't do their job, so to speak," Alfred said. "It ended by them jumping to conclusions, which was highly unfortunate for them and for me. I personally think they were ill-advised and ill-informed ... the board members were."
On Friday Law said while he had not yet received anything in writing, he had spoke with Wharton during a phone call Thursday evening.
"We did have a phone call from Jason indicating they were closing the investigation," Law said.
The school board had indicated it would see either a civil suit or file a complaint through the state Board of Risk Management to reclaim the overpayments. Law said he was unsure now what steps the board would take.
"At this point, we do have a meeting we are setting up with Jason to go over the details of his investigation and what he did find," he said. "We don't know what those findings were or how we will proceed from there."
Contacted Friday, board President Tad Wilson said he had not been informed of the prosecutor's decision to close the investigation and declined to comment further until he'd had a chance to review the information.
Alfred said he believes the school board does not have grounds to file a civil suit.
Cosenza "indicated to me that after he has reviewed all of the information, that he sees not basis for any civil liability as well," Alfred said.
Cosenza was out of town Friday and could not immediately be reached for comment. Alfred said he is scheduled to meet with Cosenza on Monday to discuss whether he should take legal action against the school board.
"I will make that decision based on the advice of my attorney," Alfred said.