Former PTSA president charged with stealing from funds for students

Published On: Dec 24 2013 06:39:22 AM HST   Updated On: Oct 16 2013 08:01:38 PM HST
KAILUA, Hawaii -

A Lanikai woman has been charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the PTSA of charter school Lanikai Elementary.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.

School officials told KITV she was a woman they trusted. However, that trust allowed her financial control without any official oversight.

Officials at Lanikai Elementary said they spent years wondering why PTSA money seemed to keep disappearing. Big donations, jumbo checks, all gone. Then a $24,000 grant went missing, and some staffers began to suspect former PTSA president Tonya Taylor.

"She was well-known and well-liked by parents and many of our staff members. It's a source of disappointment," said Philip Whitesell, vice president of the school board.

"This woman is a close neighbor of the school literally. She had her children at the school and she was a dedicated volunteer and it really divided the school on loyalties on who could actually believe it or not," said Marnie Ackerman.

Ackerman is the current parent-teacher organization president. She said Taylor was in a powerful position, and was involved in the organization until 2009.

"She was available and wanted to help and do it, and people were like sure, and I think that's basically how it happened. She was offering to do more and more and it got to the point where she was running it. It was a one-woman show," said Ackerman.

At some point, school officials said the PTSA checking account wound up in her name.

"Once we started digging through the paperwork and following the paper trail it became very clear that we had many years of dishonesty on the PTSA level," said Ackerman.

Years of dishonesty, and now investigators say, more than $50,000 in stolen funds. Taylor has been charged with theft in the first degree and money laundering.

Ackerman said the PTSA has since been disbanded. The new organization is called  Lanikai School Ohana and she says it has better checks, balances, and financial oversight.

Taylor's arraignment is set for Nov. 4.


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