The former principal of a Woodbury high school has been charged in Washington County with three felony counts of theft by swindle.
Aaron John Harper resigned abruptly in November 2014 from his job at East Ridge High School amid a police investigation for alleged public misconduct. Documents released publicly in January showed more than a dozen complaints that had been filed against him.
The criminal charges filed Friday allege that Harper, 39, of Cottage Grove, used a purchasing card issued by the school district to buy thousands of dollars of goods and services.
Those illegal purchases, the complaint said, included nutrition drinks, gift cards, electronics, softball equipment, soda pop, water and flowers for his father's funeral, and numerous tools. He also used the school account to spend $7,932 for sets of knife cutlery and kept a "slush fund" contrary to school policy that included parent cash donations, the complaint said.
The criminal charges follow a list of complaints filed with his former employer and detailed in documents obtained by the Star Tribune in January. The documents did not identify who made the complaints or whether the district found any wrongdoing by Harper.
The district also said it did not discipline him before he resigned.
Information released included copies of receipts, invoices and credit card statements showing purchases Harper made using his school district-issued MasterCard, and purchases he made at Sam's Club on his personal account.
The documents do not make clear whether all the items were purchased for personal use or for the school.
The complaints cited also alleged Harper maintained a "slush fund" of cash from daily student parking fees and used it to pay for food for students and staff or make other purchases "without providing documentation or an explanation."
They alleged that Harper used district funds to purchase iPads, but that "the location of the purchased equipment is unknown."
Copies of receipts that were part of the documents showed that Harper spent $9,487 at the Apple Store in Bloomington in August 2013, and $1,149 for iPads and accessories at the Oakdale Best Buy in December of that year.
The complaints also alleged that Harper used district funds to buy sets of knives "that had not been requested" for the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, and accepted a gift set of knives. Copies of receipts show that Harper spent $7,932 on knife sets in 2013.
The district also received a complaint that Harper used school district money to pay for a personal Sam's Club membership. Copies of statements for Harper's district credit card showed that it was used to pay several bills for his Sam's Club account.
When he resigned Nov. 6, Harper did not address the accusations. He wrote that he was leaving the school "due to personal and professional choices."
As of Monday, no court date had been set for Harper's initial appearance in court. He had been charged by summons, which means he wasn't in custody.
Each of the theft by swindle counts relates to a specific period of time, starting in May 2013 through July 2014.
The case is being prosecuted by the Washington County Attorney's office.
Staff Writer James Walsh contributed to this report.