Former Lowell Public Schools Employee Indicted
WOBURN -- A clerk who oversaw student-activity funds at Lowell Public Schools was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month.
Karen Brekalis, 48, of Tewksbury, was indicted on larceny over $250, forgery of a check and uttering a false check on Feb. 14, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. She is expected to be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn on March 7.
In November, the Sun learned Brekalis was a suspect in an investigation into about $50,000 missing from a general student activities fund at Lowell Public Schools.
At the time, Brekalis was listed as a clerk at Sullivan Middle School on the school’s website. In fiscal year 2019, Brekalis is described as an account business clerk in the district’s central office earning $46,368 annually. She did not respond to a Facebook message requesting comment this week.
In late-November, the district’s interim chief financial officer Billie Jo Turner said a new system she implemented discovered the missing sum.
In response, an employee was placed on paid administrative leave and by Nov. 28, just days later, was no longer employed by the district, according to Acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin.
According to a third-party audit of the district, the auditors learned through interviews “fraud” occurred in a student activity fund between November 2017 and July 2018. According to the document, the matter was outside of the scope of the audit, which described a district in financial crisis with a “significant lack of internal controls.”
The accusations against the school department employee came amid an upheaval at the district’s highest level. The district’s former chief financial officer, Gary Frisch left in July of last year for a similar position in Gloucester Public Schools. In mid-November, former Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui was terminated in a 4-3 vote by the School Committee following a months-long process.
Though the formal list of reasons for initiating the superintendent’s termination process has never been released, members of the School Committee who opposed Khelfaoui’s continued employment pointed to concerns regarding financial and personnel matters.
In June of last year, a different third-party audit ordered for student activity accounts for Lowell High School and Morey Elementary Schools recommended adopting new policies for the handling of the funds.
According to state law, larceny over $250 can carry up to five years in prison or up to a $25,000 fine and two years in jail. Forgery of a check and uttering a false check can carry up to ten years in prison.