SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The week after Lincoln Memorial Academy’s principal, founder and CEO Eddie Hundley resigned from the school amid controversy surrounding the school’s finances, ABC7 has learned the U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation suggesting Hundley and his Chief Financial Officer violated federal law.
In a letter to the Manatee County School District dated July, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education requests documentation related to Lincoln Memorial Academy as they investigate Hundley and the school’s Chief Financial Officer Cornelle Maxfield for possible crimes, including fraud, bribery/embezzlement, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States.
The U.S. Department of Education has requested multiple forms of documentation including:
- The charter’s application and any attachments
- A listing of all Lincoln Memorial Academy board members including their contact information as well as their personnel files
- Personnel files for Hundley and Maxfield
- Funding amounts provided to Lincoln Memorial Academy, name of the bank(s) sent transfers and the dates of refund disbursements and the their amounts
- The front and back copies of the negotiated refund checks and the addresses of where the check(s) were sent
- Copies or images of all electronic equipment
- Any other documentation the district feels would help in their investigation
In a statement, the district said they will fully cooperate with the federal government and their investigation.
Hundley resigned last week, just two days before Manatee County School District and Lincoln Memorial Academy were supposed to have a plan in place to put the school back on sound financial footing. That plan was demanded by the Florida Department of Education.
“It’s sad because he had the vision for our kids to be great and now it’s taken from him,” says employee Sharon Lily.
According to the Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, the school is operating at a financial deficit of more than $700,000. This in addition to owing the teacher’s pension fund another $60,000.
The district says the school has spent around $4 million they’ve been given, leaving leaders wondering where the money went. Before the investigation was announced, the district said they would be conducting a forensic audit of the school’s finances.
The district says any current financial liabilities would be the responsibility of Lincoln Memorial’s Board Members, not the school district.
Earlier this year, Hundley’s teaching license was revoked for five years by the State of Florida after he recommended a teacher for another job, while that teacher was under suspicion for sexual misconduct.
Despite all the controversy and Hundley’s resignation, staff are backing him.
“It’s so sad because Mr. Hundley, he loved the kids and his whole focus was making sure these kids have the best and excel to greatness," says Lily.
Several parents and staff saying they learned about the resignation through emails and phone calls.
“I received an email, it really hurt my heart," says Lily.
After Hundley’s resignation, the district took full control of Lincoln Memorial Academy, naming Ronnie King as interim principal. King was formerly the principal at the school before it became a charter school.