BROOKFIELD - A former Brookfield Schools maintenance supervisor who committed suicide last year is accused of making fraudulent purchases with five district credit accounts amounting to more than $50,000 prior to his death.
According to a statement from Superintendent Tim Saxton, a former employee allegedly removed items from the district that he had allegedly purchased with the district's commercial credit accounts.
An investigation conducted by the Brookfield Police identified Charles Lauer Jr. of Grove Street in Brookfield as the main suspect.
Saxton said roughly half of the items have been recovered and that steps have been taken by the district to prevent such loss from occurring in the future.
The school board stated that it has determined all steps to recover the loss have been taken.
According to police, the investigation is now closed. No charges were filed as the main suspect is deceased, and there is not enough evidence amounting to probable cause to believe that any other people besides Lauer had knowledge or involvement in the thefts, police said.
Lauer had been a district employee for 16 years and was still employed by the district as the maintenance supervisor when he died on Nov. 28, 2012.
In a statement made to police by another district employee who had been dating Lauer, Lauer had been in financial trouble with mortgage, credit card and car loan debts. A family member of Lauer's said she had noticed a "marked change" in him over the last two to three years and that he had become less outgoing and more secretive with family, according to reports.
As the maintenance supervisor, Lauer had access to commercial credit accounts to make purchases for the district. The purchases were required to be documented as well as approved by the treasurer, superintendent or both.
Saxton said purchasing procedures in Brookfield are similar to those in other districts.
"You have to give your supervisors the ability to do their job. ... Unfortunately, he took advantage of the situation," he said.
The district was alerted to the missing items in January by maintenance supervisor Tom Vickers, who could not locate a large toolbox after a conversation with a vendor had informed him of the purchase. When Vickers investigated further, he discovered "massive amounts of tools, toolboxes and other supplies that had been purchased by Lauer over the last two years" also were unaccounted for, according to a police report.
Saxton said many of the items were day-to-day materials that would be used in the course of building maintenance and custodial work and ranged in cost from $50 to $1,000.
Brookfield police Chief Dan Faustino said property slips provided by the district include "pages upon pages of bills" that list missing tools, the total value of which is $51,453. Most of the purchases, nearly $24,000 worth, were made from Lowe's.
According to a police report, 89 line items of goods were purchased from Lowe's between June 6, 2011, and Nov. 5, 2012, many of which were marked simply as "MISC TOOLS." When cross-referenced to the Lowe's bill, they included hand tools such as ratchets, sockets and ratchet accessories as well as large items including a pressure washer, air compressor, several tool chests / boxes and a garage door opener. Cordless tools, kitchen / bathroom faucets and large amounts of treated wood and decking material also were purchased.
On other accounts, a metal detector, moisture meter, jack, drum dollies, engine hoist and electric winch were purchased. One account included $8,700 in hand tools and a tool chest / box that cost $8,900.
The district was able to recover what Saxton called a significant amount of items with the help of police and also by making a claim on Lauer's estate. Some items were surrendered or confiscated from friends or associates of Lauer.
"We reviewed the policies and guidelines that we have in place. We stopped using (credit accounts) in the way that they have been used in the past. We're not using the one account any more. We're trying to stay more local. This particular situation obviously got out of control because this particular employee obviously thought that he wasn't going to get caught," he said.