A Former Miami-Dade Public Schools Principal Avoids Criminal Charges
|Inspector General investigators discovered former high school principal Donald Hoecheryl falsified documents to hide the fact he had spent more than $200,000 in taxpayer money for unauthorized teacher retreats to Hawk's Cay Resort in the Keys and three other hotels.|
For his alleged fraud, Donald Hoecherl gets a slap on the wrist.
According to a December 19 memo from Inspector General Christopher Mazzella to the Miami-Dade School Board and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Hoecherl avoided arrest on criminal charges by agreeing to resign from Miami-Dade Public Schools and pay $20,272 in restitution. As part of a settlement agreement with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Hoecherl "does not admit to any criminal wrongdoing." Hoecherl quit this past November 20.
Hoecherl's lawyer Michael J. Rosen said his client was unfairly targeted by the inspector general and that the investigative report is riddled with misinformation. "Dr. Hoecherl is one of the good guys," Rosen attested.
During his tenure at Ferguson High, the school hosted five employee annual retreats before the start of the school year. The first one took place in August 2003 at the Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites in Miami Beach. A year later, it was held at the school and Christ the King Lutheran Church. In 2005, Hoecherl booked the retreat at the Four Points Sheraton Resort in Miami Beach. In 2006, he took the retreat to the Doral Marriott Golf & Spa. And in 2007, the retreat was held at Hawk's Cay Resort in the Keys.
According to the inspector general's report, "in three of the five retreats examined, third parties were falsely presented on the purchase orders as putting on the retreat...the third parties were merely conduits through which Dr. Hoecherl passed school board funds."
For example, even though Hoecherl personally negotiated lodging rates with Hawk's Cay, he had school staff create a purchase order from a vendor "purportedly conducting a three-day workshop on August 10 through August 12, 2007." The inspector general's report claims the vendor "was not in the business of organizing or facilitating workshops or seminars." The fake invoice was for $115,391.
Furthermore, the inspector general uncovered a document that notes "must hide all alcoholic charges on bills - list as something else." According to an itemized bill from Hawk's Cay, the hotel charged Ferguson High $4,503 for an open bar, which is prohibited under school board rules.
Read the entire investigative report below: