A former elementary school principal has been charged with using a Minneapolis Public Schools district credit card for thousands of dollars in personal expenses.
Anne DePerry, formerly principal at Whittier International Elementary, is expected to make her first appearance Thursday in Hennepin County District Court on three counts of felony theft by swindle. She was charged Nov. 9.
The criminal complaint against DePerry, 55, of Edina, said a school district audit last year found DePerry charged more than $11,000 in personal expenses on her school credit card over nearly two years. Another $5,000 was marked as unaccounted or suspicious.
“We expect, and the citizens of Hennepin County expect, that people who have access to tax dollars will spend them appropriately and for public purposes,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a news release Wednesday. “It is disheartening when those public officials view public money as their private slush fund.”
A random district audit in October 2015 uncovered a charge for a hat store overseas on the credit card issued to DePerry, according to the criminal complaint. A review of six weeks of DePerry’s credit card expenses found about $1,700 in charges not related to school business.
DePerry told the auditor that “she must have ‘accidentally’ used the card for personal purposes,” the complaint said, and offered to write a check for the charges.
A complete audit since the charge card was given to DePerry found more personal expenses charged to the school district. DePerry’s spending from December 2013 through September 2015 found $11,830 in charges that weren’t school-related. Another $5,440 in charges were suspicious but “could not be ruled out as having a school purpose,” the complaint said.
DePerry was placed on administrative leave in October 2015 and resigned from Minneapolis Public Schools in November 2015.
She said in a letter to the interim superintendent that she “made choices concerning the district-issued Purchase-card that were inappropriate, personal in nature and unbecoming a Principal,” according to the complaint.
Charges and back story
DePerry had worked in the Minneapolis district for 22 years and had been principal at Whittier since 2012, according to her November 2015 resignation letter to interim Superintendent Michael Goar. She said she landed in “dire financial circumstances” that year because of student loan debt and personal reasons that prompted her to use her district-issued card for personal expenses, she said.
A Star Tribune data request of DePerry’s charges from January 2015 through October 2015 listed spending on her district-issued purchase card, including charges of more than $500 at an Apple store, more than $1,000 for automotive parts and more than $400 at duty-free stores. The charges didn’t indicate which expenditures were school-related and which weren’t.
In her resignation letter, DePerry wrote that the day she was appointed Whittier’s principal was the “happiest moment” of her career, she said.
“It is with a heavy heart and deep humility that I take responsibility for my mistake and take responsibility for these choices,” she said.