State auditor: Former Des Moines professor of horticulture embezzled nearly $ 20,000 in funds

State auditor Rob Sand’s report says former DMPS horticulture professor Craig Nelson spent $ 19,508.61 on improper disbursements.

DES MOINES, Iowa – A former employee of Des Moines public schools has embezzled nearly $ 20,000 in school funds, according to a special investigation by State Auditor Rob Sand.

The report identified $ 19,508.61 in inappropriate disbursements made by former horticultural professor Craig Nelson, including $ 18,113.75 in payments to Nelson’s wife and $ 1,394.61 in Menards rebates “which have been used for personal purposes ”.

Nelson’s wife was hired as an independent contractor to help with bookkeeping and greenhouse work, although DMPS employs several full-time bookkeepers. The auditor’s report also states that the horticulture program “relies heavily” on students or parent volunteers to help out in the greenhouse.

The ASD requested the special investigation “due to concerns about certain financial transactions” involving Nelson. The investigation combed through the files from August 1, 2014 to June 30, 2020. Nelson was fired from the district in April 2021.

The report says Nelson was responsible for facilitating all financial transactions associated with the school’s greenhouse operations and the annual community plant sale. He also organized an annual international trip for students.

After Nelson’s termination, Sand found that the funds deposited from the sale of the plant “increased significantly” from previous years.

“However, as inventory and detailed sales records were not available until 2021, it was not possible to determine whether deposits increased because the proceeds of the sale were properly deposited into the bank account. district, because more plants were sold, or a combination of these factors, the report says.

Sand’s report notes that the district had expanded its supply of plants for 2021.

Another important point in Sand’s report is that Nelson deposited over $ 6,000 that he collected from students for international travel into his personal bank account instead of the district’s.

Nelson also reimbursed the students nearly $ 13,000 from his personal bank account.

The report states that it was not possible to determine whether the additional amounts Nelson collected from the students were deposited into his bank account, a different account, or were not deposited at all because the files no. were not available.

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