A pair of Douglas County, Ga., school district officials have been arrested on charges of using the year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem as a way to defraud the state. The two men allegedly tried to collect reimbursements from the state Department of Education (DOE) for Y2K computer corrections that were never made.
Curtis Alonso Briscoe, the school district’s comptroller and chief financial officer, and John William Boulier, the district’s computer system chief, were indicted on charges of first-degree forgery and conspiracy to defraud the state. Both have since been fired by the school district.
Briscoe and Boulier allegedly filed claims with the DOE to pay nonexistent companies for Y2K services never rendered.
Georgia is offering grants to some school districts to reimburse them for the cost of preparing their computer systems to be Y2K compliant. But the DOE has a thorough review process for grants and officials were not satisfied with Douglas County’s application.
“The application was just not clear as to what they were going to do and how they were going to spend the money,” said Billie Sherrod, associate superintendent for technology services. Sherrod said the DOE sent the application back to the district for clarification. It was then that the district launched an internal investigation and uncovered what Briscoe and Boulier were attempting to do.
It is unclear exactly how much money was involved, but DOE attorney Betsy Howerton said the school district applied for $52,319 in grant reimbursements related to the district’s Y2K effort. None of that money ever actually reached the district, however.
The Douglas County District Attorney’s office is handling the indictment of Briscoe and Boulier. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations also is looking into the charges.
Meanwhile, school district attorney Ken Bernard said the charges involve only state money, adding that the district itself doesn’t appear to have been cheated. “The books don’t appear to be cooked, meaning what we say we have is there,” Bernard told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
According to a statement issued by the district, “The Douglas County School System began an internal investigation immediately after a report was made to Superintendent Randy Brittain of false documentation of state grant reimbursement invoices.”
Based on the internal investigation, the Douglas County Board of Education immediately terminated Briscoe, who had worked for the school system since 1993. Boulier was originally suspended pending a hearing, but later waived his rights to the hearing and accepted termination.
Briscoe and Boulier, who have declined to speak to the press, were indicted less than two weeks later on charges that they created phony invoices and companies, and for allegedly falsifying check-writing records to make it appear as if the money was truly being spent.
A complete investigation and an audit are being conducted at the request of the Douglas County School System. Officials could not say for sure what the effect of the scam would be on the district’s Y2K efforts.
Georgia Department of Education