ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than $4,000 meant for an Albuquerque Public Schools homeless project didn’t end up going toward students experiencing homelessness, according to the district. At a news conference Monday, the district announced that an investigation into the missing funds has resulted in the termination of the homeless project’s director, identified by a district spokeswoman as Anthony Fairley.
“The investigation determined the program director did not report the loss of this money, more than $4,000 in cash donations,” Superintendent Raquel Reedy said. “The director has been terminated from the district, and APS will pursue legal action for the return and restitution of that money.”
Fairley, the Title 1 Homeless Project director, was put on paid leave and eventually terminated, according to district officials.
Fairley could not be reached for comment.
According to APS, he has been with the district on and off since 2005 as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He was the principal of Jefferson Middle School before becoming the director of the homeless project. He had been in that directorial role since September.
The district declined to say if Fairley had been under investigation or reprimanded before this.
The funding – which was donated by Presbyterian Hospital – would have gone to resources such as food or clothing.
“It was a donation to the homeless project to be used for school supplies, for food, for clothing, for whatever our homeless students need,” said Chief Financial Officer Tami Coleman.
However, Coleman added that the program is fully funded and the students benefitting from the project aren’t expected to be impacted.
APS reports there are over 3,000 homeless students each school year.
Carla Gandara, APS deputy police chief, said the investigation into the funds was prompted after employees – who the district declined to identify as they are whistleblowers – noticed in the middle of May that a suspicious amount of money was being stored in a safe.
That sparked a review of donations, which concluded that more than $4,000 was not accounted for.
“It appears theft of monetary donations in the amount of $4,081.48 occurred as these funds could not be traced to APS Education Foundation bank deposits,” a report on the matter said.
Monetary donations are supposed to be deposited with the Foundation, according to the investigative report.
“We’re in the process of completing a criminal investigation and once that is done, it will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review,” Gandara said.
The report also highlights ways the homeless project’s financial procedures need improvement.
For instance, the report suggests creating an activity fund account for the homeless project instead of going through the foundation. That fund would then be subject to state laws and go through annual audits.
Coleman emphasized that the homeless project funds were treated differently, with the aim of allowing staff to assist students more immediately.
She and Reedy said the district is working on tightening internal controls for the project.
“What occurred cannot be tolerated,” said Reedy.