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Former principal pleads guilty to theft charge

By Kevin Kelley

Fairview Park

Kevin Liptrap, the former Fairview High School and Lewis F. Mayer Middle School principal accused of stealing more than $63,000 from school funds, pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga Commons Pleas Court May 14 to a charge of theft in office. Sentencing by Judge Joan Synenberg is scheduled for June 18.

Liptrap will pay back the district the $63,000 he stole, plus the $58,000 cost of a state audit conducted after district officials became aware of his actions.

In a statement, Fairview Park City Schools Superintendent Brion Deitsch said he is grateful the matter is moving toward final closure.

“The fact that part of the agreement is to make the district whole for audit costs and the amount stolen is key to our efforts for providing quality services and opportunities for our students,” the superintendent said.

According to court records, the $122,142 Liptrap must pay back will be credited the $5,000 he turned over to police when first confronted, as well as unused vacation days. The remainder will come from his State Teachers Retirement System account.

Assistant County Prosecutor Dan Kasaris said the amount of unused vacation days has not yet been determined.

In pleading guilty to the third-degree felony, Liptrap faces up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The court’s probation department is currently preparing a report on Liptrap.

“There is no agreed sentence between the state and the defendant,” Kasaris told West Life. The prosecutor said he insisted Liptrap pay back the cost of the audit in addition to the money he took.

Liptrap’s attorney, Gary Vick, did not return a call seeking comment.

Kasaris said Liptrap’s motive was paying for his spending habits and lifestyle.

The state audit found that Liptrap took money from funds for student athletic participation fees, ticket fees for athletic events and student parking fees. He apparently diverted the money by substituting checks for cash when making deposits in the district’s accounts, the report states.

The audit also found that the school district made $4,355 in disbursements to the Sweetbriar Golf and Pro Shop in Avon Lake. According to the purchase orders submitted by Liptrap, the money was to go to practice rounds, golf bags, shirts and balls for the district’s golf team. However, both the golf coach and Sweetbriar officials said the high school golf team did not practice there. The golf fees were for Liptrap’s personal golf rounds and cart rental, the audit concluded.

Court records indicate Liptrap filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May 2011. Two credit card issuers filed claims against Liptrap for unpaid credit card debt, court records also indicate.

District Treasurer Ryan Ghizzoni said that Liptrap was bonded, and the district has an employee dishonesty insurance policy. Although the district filed claims against those policies, the companies made no payments because they were awaiting the conclusion of Liptrap’s trial, Ghizzoni said.

“Since we will be receiving the amount of claim from Mr. Liptrap’s retirement fund, the district is, in theory, being made whole,” Ghizzoni said. “Therefore, it will cancel out the claims we made with the insurance companies.”

First hired as the high school’s assistant principal and athletic director in 2006, Liptrap became high school principal in the fall of 2008, adding oversight of the middle school two years later. Liptrap resigned as principal Oct. 5, 2010, after being confronted by district officials with evidence of the thefts.

 

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