Crappell charged in missing school funds


Former Berwick Town Councilwoman and Berwick Elementary School secretary Penny T. Crappell turned herself in to the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Department this morning on charges of theft and forgery.

The charges cap a month-long investigation by Louisiana State Police into the misappropriation of about $59,000 at Berwick Elementary School, where Crappell was a secretary.

Crappell turned herself in to the state police at 9:11 a.m. at the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Department. No bail has been set.

The former secretary resigned from both her town council and school system positions Wednesday.

In the letter to the town, she cited “personal issues that need my immediate attention.” The letter to the school system gave no reason for the resignation, Superintendent Donald Aguillard said.

Berwick Town Attorney Allen McElroy said a special meeting of the council will be held next week to call a special election for her seat. The first available date to hold an election for Crappell’s seat is April 6 with a runoff, if necessary, on May 4.

An interim councilman will need to be named.

Mayor Louis Ratcliff said Wednesday afternoon he does not yet know whom he will recommend to the council.

The signatories on the school activity fund at the time of the misappropriation were Principal Steve Russo, Assistant Principal Debbie Tompkins and Crappell.

Crappell had been on medical leave since mid-May. Her pay ended the day she resigned, according to Aguillard

Aguillard created a position at the Central Office Complex July 19 for Russo and promoted Tompkins to acting principal until the final audit report is received and the investigation is sorted out.

Russo was moved to Franklin Junior High School Aug. 15 where he works as a self-contained special education teacher.

Interviews for the Berwick Elementary School principal were conducted Wednesday morning, Aguillard said.

“The fallout from the recent audit of the Berwick Elementary School activity fund is regrettable,” Aguillard said in a statement. “The public is assured of our unwavering commitment that sound administrative and financial practice is the norm and not the unexpected.”

The district is committed to auditing all schools and programs using an accelerated 3-year cycle, he said.

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