The school's principal, Steve Avram, said Tuesday that he was notified a week earlier about discrepancies in the PTA's checking and savings accounts. He declined to name anyone targeted in the investigation, and referred questions to other PTA officials and the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.
“Representatives from the Ferry School PTA reported potential irregularities with their bank account,” Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said in a statement. “It appears at this time that funds are unaccounted for or missing. Detectives are working to gather financial transaction information to determine a total amount for the missing funds.”
Hawke confirmed that there is a suspect in the case, but that person is not being named unless he or she is arrested and charged with a crime.
The completed investigation will be turned over to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office for review before any criminal charges are made, Hawke said.
Andrea Dress, vice president of the Ferry PTA, said she could not say how much money was missing.
“Any amount of funds is a sizable amount of funds,” she said.
Dress said the missing funds would not affect any activities for the current school year, which ends Friday. However, she wouldn't speculate as to how the missing funds would affect PTA events in the next school year.
Dress said a member of the Ferry PTA resigned since the investigation began, but she wouldn't name that person.
Former Ferry PTA Treasurer Melissa Youngs was contacted at her home on Tuesday. She said that she has hired an attorney “just to protect myself," but declined to say anything more.
Youngs' attorney, James Piper, could not be reached for comment before press time. His secretary said he was in court on Tuesday.
A letter from Ferry PTA President Melissa Poll addressing the association's finances was sent to the school's parents on May 30.
“At this time, we are taking every step necessary to resolve this matter and (ensure) the PTA’s standing in our community,” she wrote. “We will be holding a general membership meeting between now and the beginning of our next school year, sharing our findings available at that time.”
A comment on the Ferry PTA’s Facebook page on May 31 thanked parents for their patience and support: “Just a quick thank you to everyone for their understanding and patience as the PTA works through everything. We know everyone has questions and we will answer them as soon as we are able to. Your support means a great deal to us at this time.”
Avram said PTA-sponsored activities are more important than ever during hard economic times.
“They do a number of things,” the principal explained. “They help support school assemblies. They sponsored two book fairs this year. They have become a very valuable resource."