Misuse of funds investigated at Lake Shore schools over Italy trip

Former St. Clair Shores superintendent investigated for misuse of funds for trip to Italy

A former St. Clair Shores superintendent is under investigation tonight. He's accused of misusing district money to pay for a trip to Italy.

One of those officials, an assistant superintendent was also on that trip. We spoke to a former superintendent who said he believes everything was above board.

But the current superintendent received word suggesting otherwise.

"We all share concerns that exist in regarding allegations to ethics violations here at Lake Shore Public Schools.

And the district will bring in a forensic auditor to determine among other things if  former superintendent Dr. Chris Loria misused school funds for a trip to Italy.

"We're not going to worry about protecting image here," said current Supt. Dr. Joe DiPonio.

Diponio says the red flag was raised earlier this week.

"I received an anonymous letter on Monday that indicated allegations of theft," he said.

Loria says he, two teachers and an assistant superintendent Don Kling went to Italy ahead of Lake shore high school students taking a cultural exchange trip there.

"I don't know what that trip cost," said Loria. 

FOX 2: "Who paid for it?"

"It came through private tuition funds from our China account," Loria said.

FOX 2: "Funds from China?"

"Right because China pays their private tuition for students that come from China for us," Loria said.

Upwards of a hundred Chinese students take part in an exchange program with Lake Shore schools every year.

FOX 2 asked DiPonio if those funds should've been used for the trip to Italy.

"If what you're asking me is, if that's a wise use of money to expand what we do with our programs, to take a look at different
opportunities for students, I would really have to take a look at what exactly any trip entailed."

"To arrange for our kids to go there," said Loria. "I'm not going to send our kids to Europe to a school that I'm not familiar with or the people that we're putting our kids in their hands.

"I welcome any audit, I have nothing to hide so I welcome that audit."

Loria announced his retirement in late February, a little more than a month before DiPonio received the anonymous letter, and his contract expires at the end of the school year.

"Rather than rush to judgment here and say something wrong has taken place," DiPonio said. "Or to be blasé about the concerns that our community has, we want to turn this over to an expert in this area and have him take a good hard look at what's taken place."

The auditor will outline the proposed scope of his investigation at a special Lake Shore school board meeting Monday.