Woman accused of taking boosters’ money

Published 3:40 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

A Bainbridge woman accused of taking money from a fundraising account has been charged with theft by taking.

Bonnie Francis Long, 37, of 2264 Tallahassee Highway — who is known to some as Francis Trawick — was arrested by Bainbridge Public Safety on Friday morning and charged with felony theft by taking.

Long, who was the treasurer of the Bainbridge Middle School Cheerleaders’ Boosters, is accused of taking approximately $9,292 from the boosters’ account and using the money for herself, according to a BPS incident report.

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According to the report, some of the thefts — occurring between May and November 2011 — involved money collected from fundraisers not being deposited into the boosters’ account, while others involved unauthorized checks that had been written on the account. The account was also used to make 12 fradulent payments to the Capital One company, totaling $1,310, between August and October of 2011.

Bainbridge Chief Investigator Frank Green began investigating the missing money this past December. He subsequently met with BMS cheerleading coaches and other persons connected to the BMS Boosters. Those interviews and other information gained during the investigation led Green to take out a warrant against Long, who turned herself in to BPS on Friday.

Decatur County School Superintendent Fred Rayfield met with the boosters’ officers on Thursday evening. According to Rayfield, the school system will pay an approximately $7,000 bill to a company that had already provided the BMS cheerleaders with uniforms, with the understanding the boosters will reimburse the school system.

Neither the school system nor Bainbridge Middle School has oversight over, nor access to, this account or any of the various other groups’ booster club accounts. These accounts are totally separate from any school’s account or Board of Education account.

“Our role now, as a school system, is to help, guide, and support the coaches, other booster club officers and booster club members through this tough situation,” Rayfield said. “We are involved because our students are affected.”

“Our two coaches, Gina Conley and Lea Hawkins, and the booster club president, Kim Jeter, handled this situation in a very professional manner and as quickly and efficiently as they possibly could,” Rayfield continued.

Rayfield indicated that the school system, in light of this incident, would offer policies and procedures relative to the handling of financial matters to each of the booster clubs associated with the county’s schools, in an effort to prevent such a situation from arising again. But, ultimately, those groups are independent of the school system and are not bound by the system’s policies and oversight.