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Car drives into Pine Lake

This car missed the stop sign at 17 Mile and Pine Lake Avenue Wednesday evening and drove into Pine Lake. Post photo by L. Allen.

This car missed the stop sign at 17 Mile and Pine Lake Avenue Wednesday evening and drove into Pine Lake. Post photo by L. Allen.

Another driver took the “Pine Lake plunge” Wednesday evening, September 28.

A call came across Kent County Dispatch at about 9:20 p.m. saying that a car had driven into Pine Lake at 17 Mile, in Nelson Township. They then reported the driver was crawling out of the car.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, Clinton Felkner, 57, of Oakfield Township, was traveling eastbound on 17 Mile Road when he failed to stop at the stop sign at Pine Lave Avenue and drove his 2009 Buick LaCrosse into Pine Lake.

The driver was not injured and was able to exit the car.

Cedar Springs Fire and Rockford Ambulance also responded to the scene.

Alcohol is believed to have been a factor in the crash, which is still under investigation.

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Three car crash sends teen to hospital

A woman that ran a red light caused a three-car crash at 17 Mile and White Creek on Wednesday, September 14. Post Photo by J. Reed.

A woman that ran a red light caused a three-car crash at 17 Mile and White Creek on Wednesday, September 14. Post Photo by J. Reed.

A three-car crash at the corner of 17 Mile and White Creek sent a young teen to the hospital last week.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, the crash occurred about 4:34 p.m., Wednesday, September 14, at the intersection of 17 Mile Road and White Creek Avenue.

According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, of KCSD Cedar Springs unit, a 2002 Dodge Stratus, driven by Jamie Wachter, a 46-year-old White Cloud woman, was travelling eastbound on 17 Mile Road and disregarded the red light at White Creek. That vehicle struck a southbound 2013 Ford Explorer driven by Tracy Bucholtz, a 53 year old Pierson woman, causing her vehicle to strike a third vehicle. The third vehicle, a 2016 Chevrolet Equinox, was northbound and driven by Karen Pursley-Wood, a 48-year-old Cedar Springs woman. After colliding with vehicle 3, the Ford Explorer flipped onto its side, coming to rest on the driver side.

A passenger in the Dodge Stratus, a 14-year-old White Cloud female, was transported to DeVos Children’s Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Wachter, who ran the red light in the Stratus, was cited for Careless Driving.

Cedar Springs Fire and Rescue assisted at the scene.

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Two trucks collide at 17 Mile and White Creek

Two trucks crashed after one ran the red light at 17 Mile and White Creek Sunday afternoon. Courtesy photos.

Two trucks crashed after one ran the red light at 17 Mile and White Creek Sunday afternoon. Courtesy photos.

Drivers disregarding the stoplight at 17 Mile and White Creek resulted in two traffic crashes in only four days. The first one occurred Sept. 14.

Then, on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at approximately 3:49 p.m., the Kent County Sheriff Department responded to another personal injury crash at the intersection of White Creek Avenue and 17 Mile Road, this one involving two pickup trucks.

A 54-year-old Rockford woman was travelling eastbound on 17 Mile Rd near White Creek in a 2004 Ford F150 when, according to witnesses, she disregarded the stoplight and struck a northbound 1999 Ford F250, driven by a 34-year-old Sparta man.

The crash caused the northbound F250 to roll. Both occupants of that vehicle, a 34-year-old Sparta man and a 36-year-old Sparta woman, were transported to Butterworth Hospital via Rockford Ambulance with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the eastbound vehicle was transported to Blodgett Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Cedar Springs Fire Department assisted with the crash scene. The crash remains open and under investigation, so names have not yet been released. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

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Red Flannel POST

redflannelpost3816Download this week’s Red Flannel POST pages by clicking the link below…

RedFlannelPOST3816.pdf

RedFlannelPOST3716.pdf

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Financial review of school shows tighter control needed

csps-hawk-logo

By Judy Reed

UPDATE Sept. 23, 2016: The section on p-card credit limits and purchase limits has been revised to reflect more accurate information.

A forensic audit into record keeping in the athletic department at Cedar Springs Public Schools did not show any intentional misuse of funds or fraud, but did show that the district needs to have stricter policies and procedures on procurement cards and ensuring employees have the guidelines on how to use them.

“The investigation was a reflection of concerns brought to us about athletic accounts,” explained Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent at Cedar Springs Public Schools. “When several concerns mounted, the board decided to go ahead with the investigation. We are accountable to the community, staff, and parents. We are stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

According to the report, Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services was contacted on December 11, 2015, by the Thrun Law Firm (representing CSPS) to request a review of financial transactions and internal controls at Cedar Springs Public Schools. The review included forensic accounting analysis and interviews. Additional investigation involved purchase or “P-cards” issued to 13 unique employees, and a more detailed review of all transactions impacting the football team’s agency account during the 2015-2016 school year.

The results of the Rehmann report, which was printed in June, was initially suppressed from the public under attorney-client privilege. The Cedar Springs Board of Education voted on August 8 to make it available to the public. According to the board minutes, the vote passed 7-0. No video was available for that portion of the meeting, but according to the Superintendent’s office, there was no public discussion about its contents.

The Post asked Supt. VanDuyn why they decided to release the report now. “People would ask whatever happened with that investigation, and we are accountable to our constituents, so decided to release it,” she explained.

The report explained that purchases made using the p-cards are generally allocated to a specific fund. At CSPS there is a general athletic department fund, a general fund for each team, and an agency fund for each team (which is generally restricted to funds raised through boosters and other sources). The report said that according to their investigation, there does not appear to be any consistent practice with regards to when purchases should be paid using agency funds instead of general funds, nor when a general athletic department expense account is charged for a purchase instead of a team account. It said there also didn’t appear to be any consistent methodology for allocating expenses between more than one team when there was shared expenses.

The report also indicated that during review of p-card purchases and receipts, that in only a few instances was the reason for the purchase adequately documented, and little indication that the purchase had been reviewed and approved by anyone (such as a supervisor). Detailed receipts could not be found for purchases in some instances. One such instance they mentioned was a credit card purchase in July 2013 by then Athletic Director Autumn Mattson from Daktronics for $8,437. The company sells scoreboards, audio systems, message boards, etc. The report said that no detailed receipt was attached to the credit card statement, so they couldn’t ascertain what the purchase was.

VanDuyn said that many of the instances referred to happened before either she or Finance Director Rosemary Zink took office. She did say, however, that she has confidence in the accounting department. “They do make sure there are receipts, they are very strict about that,” said VanDuyn.

The report noted that “based on our limited review of the purchases initiated on the p-cards for the Athletic Department under the control of Autumn Mattson, we did not note any purchases that were inherently inappropriate. In many instances, the lack of a detailed receipt hindered our ability to review what was purchased and make a determination with regards to its appropriateness.”

The Post asked why the yearly auditor would not find the discrepancies that the forensic auditor had. “The difference between an annual audit and this one is that the annual audit is making sure you are spending federal money the way you are supposed to,” explained VanDuyn. “They might do random samples of two credit cards. They don’t go through all the transactions detail by detail.”

There were several exhibits attached to the original report that included the policy and guidelines for the p-card holders, and referenced purchases. The school did not release those exhibits. “We only released the executive summary,” explained Van Duyn. “The rest would’ve been problematic. We wanted to protect the confidentiality of those employees,”

The Post asked if there were guidelines that all the p–card users have, and was told all p-card holders have to sign off on them. We asked to have them sent to us but the guidelines didn’t seem to be readily available.

Another problem noted was that the different departments keep track of their budget on an Excel spreadsheet, while the accounting department then gets together with them every so often to reconcile the account. The investigator was not able to reconcile an error in the athletic department’s Excel spreadsheet for funds available for the football team at the end of 2014.

The report said it was important to note that the accounting department maintains the agency funds for the various teams and other groups at CSPS. “As a result, we believe that it would be difficult for a member of the athletic department to misappropriate funds once they had been remitted to the accounting department for deposit in to the bank. During our meeting with Coach Kapolka, he was provided with a copy of the invoices and other expenditures pertaining to the football team for his review. During this analysis, Kapolka did not indicate that any of the expenditures were inappropriate.” They felt the accounting records were more accurate than the athletic department records.

The report made a variety of recommendations. One was limiting the number of p-cards. CSPS currently has in excess of 70 p-cards, which they said means that the accounting department has to spend too much time reviewing statements and tracking down receipts. “The school is also at a heightened risk for financial loss due to the number of cards in circulation in the event of an abusive or tempted employee,” it said. They recommended cutting it down to 10, and to make as many purchases as possible through the accounts payable process.

The report also recommended lowering both the credit limit and purchase limit on p-cards, noting that they are mainly for small transactions. The AD had a credit limit of $20,000; the supervisor a limit of $5,000; and TV production of $35,000.

Many colleges and universities don’t have credit limits that large. For example, Cornerstone University p-card holders have a credit limit of $3,000 with a per purchase limit of $1,000; and Western Michigan University has a credit limit of $5,000 with a purchase limit also of $5,000.

The Rehmann report recommended lowering the purchase limit for Cedar Springs p-card holders to $50 to $100 for the majority of the cards.

Other recommendations included employees getting approval before purchases; including an explanation on why items were purchased using the p-card; developing and implementing clear guidance on when general funds should be used and when agency funds should be used; using a corporate Amazon account instead of individual accounts; requiring the submission of detailed receipts; and more.

Dr. VanDuyn said they haven’t implemented any of the recommendations yet. “We will look at all the recommendations from the Rehmann Report. It’s up to us to go through them and see what works for us. We are looking to review them and see which things we will address,” she said.

So what’s the bottom line? “It basically says we need to clean up our business practices. We want accountability and have high expectations of all of our employees,” remarked VanDuyn. “Anytime you can work hard to make things better, it’s worth it.”

The Post asked for a statement from former AD Autumn Mattson regarding the report and the information it contained. “I was aware that CSPS was reviewing their financial processes and procedures. And after reading the report, I can see that no illegal activity was found. I wish CSPS the best of luck as they implement the recommendations that were in the report,” she said.

Anyone wishing a full copy of the report may file a Freedom of Information Act with the school.

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Rockford rowing coach agrees to plead guilty 

Timothy Vallier

Timothy Vallier

Admits to hidden videos of girls changing clothes 

U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced Wednesday that Timothy Vallier, 30, of Plainfield Township, signed a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of attempting to produce and possessing child pornography. Vallier was a Rockford Public High School rowing coach.

Vallier faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 50 years in federal prison.

The exact term of imprisonment will be determined by the judge at a sentencing hearing on a date to be scheduled by the court. The offenses also carry a requirement for sex offender registration, a potential fine of up to $250,000 per count, financial compensation to the victims, and at least 5 years and up to a lifetime on intensive supervised release after incarceration, during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children.

In the plea agreement, Vallier admits that between January 2012 and April 2016, he produced approximately 86 hidden camera videos of girls changing clothes at two high school facilities: the Rockford rowing team’s boathouse and the Rockford Freshman Center.

The federal charges follow an investigation led by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Homeland Security Investigations.

Vallier has been in custody since his arrest on related state charges on July 10, 2016, which were dismissed in light of federal prosecution. The plea hearing has not yet been scheduled and will be held at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids. Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are continuing to identify and notify victims.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

Homeland Security Investigations encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1- 800-THE-LOST. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download

HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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The Post travels to Iceland

n-post-travels-to-iceland

Leslie Anne Wood, of Oakfield Township, took the Post along with her on a summer trip to Iceland, Denmark, and Norway. This picture was taken August 14 at Iceland’s natural hot springs, affectionately known as the Blue Lagoon. It was a nine-day adventure offered by a local Michigan-based travel company.

Thanks, Leslie, for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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Veterans Visit Post 287

Residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans visited the American Legion in Cedar Springs.

Residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans visited the American Legion in Cedar Springs.

Shown presenting a check in the amount of $200.00 to the Vet’s Home is Post Commander Bill Yuncker.

Shown presenting a check in the amount of $200.00 to the Vet’s Home is Post Commander Bill Yuncker.

The American Legion in Cedar Springs was host to residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans on September 17, 2016.

While at the American Legion, the veterans were treated to a Swiss steak lunch, and then played many games of bingo with prizes.

The Glen Hill Post 287 Family has been holding this event for the veterans for many years. This is one of the activities that Post 287 takes pride and enjoyment in sponsoring. In late July, Post 287 provided an activity tent with prizes for the veterans and their family members at the annual Veteran’s Carnival at the Home for Veterans.

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Officials warn of deadly drug

This is a photo of pure carfentanil. Just touching it can be lethal.

This is a photo of pure carfentanil. Just touching it can be lethal.

The Kent County Sheriff Department is warning people about a deadly new drug turning up in Kent County.

Over the past two weeks, in three separate cases, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office has encountered heroin that likely contained the drug carfentanil. Carfentanil is a Schedule II controlled substance opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

Carfentanil is typically used as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants. This substance could lead to tens-to-hundreds of overdoses in a short amount of time within the same geographic region. Administering Narcan, which is commonly known to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to someone that has ingested carfentanil may not be effective and additional doses may be required.

If you come across an unknown substance and chemical, use extreme caution as people and animals can absorb carfentanil and fentanyl via skin contact, inhalation, oral exposure or ingestion. Symptoms such as disorientation, coughing, sedation, respiratory distress or cardiac arrest typically occur within minutes of exposure. Incidental contact with this substance can also be lethal.

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Human cases of West Nile Virus confirmed in Kent County

 

Two people in Kent County have tested positive for the West Nile Virus.

According to the Kent County Health Department, the two people who have tested positive are unrelated adults who are residents of Kent County. It is unknown where they contracted the disease.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is spread to people primarily through the bites of an infected Culex species mosquito. While this species is known to transmit WNV it is not known to transmit Zika virus.

WNV is not contagious from person to person. Its symptoms range from a slight headache and low grade fever to, in rare cases, swelling of the brain tissue. But it can result in death.

For three months, ending on Labor Day, the Kent County Health Department conducted weekly surveillance of Culex mosquitoes, testing for the presence of WNV. Tens of thousands of mosquitoes were collected from various areas of the county. Testing was performed on the liquefied remains of up to 50 mosquitoes at a time, and West Nile Virus was found in 20 of those samples.

“We have known through our testing that the threat for contracting West Nile Virus was in our community,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer at KCHD. “We also know that the threat will continue as long as mosquitoes are active. Even the first frost may not be harsh enough to extinguish the risk.”

West Nile Virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since the first case was diagnosed in Michigan in 2001, more than 1,100 people have been diagnosed with the disease and 92 people have died. In 2001 and again in 2012, Kent County had the second highest number of West Nile cases in the state.

The best treatment for WNV is prevention. The Kent County Health Department recommends wearing a mosquito repellant that contains 10–35 percent DEET, wearing light colored clothing and staying indoors during dusk. You can help stop mosquitoes from breeding by removing any standing water in your yard and keeping your lawn and shrubs cut.

More about West Nile Virus can be found at www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html.

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