Band booster arrested for stealing funds

The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office on Monday arrested a former
officer of the Port St. Joe Band Boosters, charging her with grand theft for
taking more than $9,000 in cash and checks from the organization.

Sheriff Mike Harrison said that following an interview at
the sheriff’s office with law enforcement officials, in which she admitted
taking the monies for her own use, Andrea S. Kennington, 45, of Port St. Joe,
was charged with the second-degree felony, and booked into the Gulf County
Detention Facility. At her first appearance, she was released with conditions,
and no bond was required.

Harrison said she did not request a lawyer at her interview.
“She was obviously upset over this, she was remorseful,” he said. “She wanted
to try to pay the money back, but at this point charges had to be filed in a situation
like this. She’ll be held accountable for it.”

Kennington was not currently an officer in the organization,
but had been in the past, as far back as 2015.

“She had signed checks to herself with no documentation, and
later on we believe she had other checks written to her by previous board members,”
the sheriff said. “There were multiple signers on the account.

“Based on the investigation there is a strong possibility there
will be other charges filed in this case,” Harrison said.

The sheriff said his department received a call from Superintendent
Jim Norton early last week that, based on a report to Port St. Joe High School
officials by an officer in the boosters, the matter needed to be looked into.

After examining booster records, investigators substantiated
the complaint, and determined that multiple checks written to, and by,
Kennington lacked any supporting documentation.  The investigation led to the tally that she
had taken about $9,096 in checks and cash for personal gain.

“That’s the number we reached at this time,” Harrison said. “There’s
always the possibility that number might increase, but we believe it’s an accurate

Heightened concern regarding the operation of the band boosters,
a private organization entirely separate from the school district, had surfaced
last fall, primarily due to gaps in coverage of the concession stand at two
well-attended home football games.

The band boosters have for many years been the group
handling this busy concession stand, to raise funds to support the Port St. Joe
High School Band of Gold.

Norton said neglect of the concession stand, and the
inability of the school district to monitor any of the boosters’ finances, led to
a decision by school officials last fall to move the concession operation in-house,
where as an internal account it could be entirely overseen according to district
financial requirements. This has meant that inventory is accounted for each night
of operation, and all expenditures and disbursements now require purchase

“When it wasn’t housed under the school, I can’t help them
when they fall short,” said Principal Josh Dailey.

He said the boosters also have raised monies through bake
sales and other fundraisers, and have handled such expenses as the dry cleaning
of band uniforms, a trip for the musicians to Orlando, scholarships and other enhancements
of the band experience.

In addition, help for the band has come through the school’s
athletic department budget, as well as sizeable private donations.

“We have two tiny little schools and they each have a
marching band,” said Norton. “We take a lot of community pride in supporting

Dailey said that after school officials met with a concerned
member of the band boosters board, they called in Norton to review the
substance of the allegations being brought forward.

“After they met with them, they called me moments later  and said “You may want to sit through this
with us,” Norton said. “They went through it all again. And afterwards I said ‘I
gotta call the sheriff.’

“I am ticked off that somebody would be so brazen to steal
from the intended purpose of helping these kids,” said the superintendent. “I
think the sheriff has a great working understanding, if anybody else is
involved. I thank the sheriff’s office investigators for quickly solving it, I think
they have an iron tight case.”

He said that in the event of restitution, school officials want
to make sure the monies go for their intended purpose, to help with the band.

“It is unfortunate it affected the kids,” said Dailey. “I think
this individual made a poor choice. It is extremely sad that it takes away from
our kids.”

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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