Authorities charged a former high school principal in Los Angeles with theft and misappropriation of funds resulting from payment received for unapproved use of school property. This profile offers insight for government officials and white-collar business professionals.
Upon completion of this Case Study, participants should:
- Understand how employee conduct can lead to criminal investigations
- Explain how failure to put a compliance program in place can jeopardize a business’ longevity
- Describe how to avoid investigations resulting from avoidable conduct
- Understand how a sentence mitigation strategy can improve chances for departure from sentencing guidelines and prosecutor recommendations.
State of the Industry
In this case, we see a former high school principal in Los Angeles who made some bad decisions. Occasionally, an employee takes actions that smear otherwise good people’s names and professions. Government officials should take deliberate, careful, and calculated measures to avoid involvement in any criminal investigation. Poor decision-making on the job can lead investigations and prosecution for white-collar crimes.
This case study profiles Kyle Douglas, a former high school principal. All the information in this Background comes from a Los Angeles County Bureau of Investigation (LACBI) press release and a newspaper article on the subject. According to the LACBI, authorities charged Douglas with one count each of misappropriation of public funds, forgery, and grand theft.
Misappropriation of funds includes the separate crime of embezzlement. Misappropriation of funds involves embezzlement of money only. If an employer entrusts a person with authority over a corporate asset, and the employer uses that property inappropriately, or for personal benefit, authorities may bring criminal charges of embezzlement. Under current California law, the crime rises to Grand Theft when the value of the stolen property exceeds $950.
According to the LACBI, Douglas negotiated a $57,000 contract with a company to use the campus parking lot while he served as the principal of Inglewood High School. Douglas noted that the school board did not authorize him to use school property in this manner. Two years later, while employed as the principal at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Pasadena, Douglas collected roughly $10,000 for a student trip to China; he never paid the company hired to organize the school trip.
Douglas initially pleaded not guilty to the charges and a judge scheduled a preliminary hearing.
Even though Douglas pleaded not guilty, prosecutors and investigators continued to investigate the charges against Douglas. Douglas’ decisions exposed him to a loss of liberty, loss of time spent with family, and a loss of financial resources.
Felony convictions for Misappropriation of Funds exposed Douglas to ten years in prison. A conviction for felony misappropriation of funds convictions and grand theft would add additional penalties.
News of theft and misappropriation of funds by government employees happens regularly. We’ve profiled the story of an Illinois woman that stole more than $50 million from the town that employed her as treasurer for longer than 22-years. A court convicted another government employee in Maine for stealing $500,000 from municipal tax receipts over a six-year period.
Top government officials fail their constituents when they fail to put proper mechanisms in place to lower levels of theft. Since many people enter government with the intention of providing honest services, we suspect that people cross the line because they lack an awareness of the consequences that follow white-collar crime.
We recommend that authority figures conduct risk assessments for every functional area of an organization. By assessing those risk assessments, leaders should see the value in including more information on how investigations begin, and the pain that follows.
People that work for government likely begin with good intentions. Like an athlete requires continuous practice to perform at the highest levels, an employee should learn more about what goes on in an industry. Although most people perform their job functions with a high level of integrity, others may look for short cuts. Those short cuts can start a slippery slope into unethical behavior. That unethical behavior can lead to worse decisions that bring charges for white-collar crimes.
Although we all may begin our careers with the best of intentions, sometimes we make bad decisions. In this case, if a judge or jury convicts Douglas, he will face severe consequences that will likely include the loss of liberty. Rather than contesting the charges, he may consider accepting responsibility and working to create a sentence-mitigation strategy. An effective sentence-mitigation strategy does not excuse the misconduct. Rather, an effective sentence-mitigation strategy will help a person explain the influences that led to his or her behavior. The strategy should help a judge understand what the person has learned from this experience, and how the person identifies with victims. The strategy should also show the judge the steps that the person is taking to make things right.
We recommend that people learn about the influences that lead honest people down a bad path. They also may want to learn more about effective mitigation strategies.
- Former Principal Charged With Theft, Misappropriating Public Funds | Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office (lacounty.gov)
- Ex-principal charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars (msn.com)