Feds: Missing funds, uncertified teachers among problems at Palmetto charter school

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A Manatee County charter school is facing a host of problems, before the school year even gets underway.

Lincoln Memorial Academy has a shortfall of $700,000, uncertified teaching staff, missing background checks and the lowest graded school in the county. 

"That school was and remains financially insolvent based on the board’s decisions, [and] lack of oversight," said Mitchell Teitelbaum, general counsel to the Manatee County School District.

Eddie Hundley, the man in charge and former principal, lost his teaching license last May. 

He recommended teacher Quentin Peterson for another job, even though Peterson was being investigated for a sex crime. 

A Judge found Hundley knew about the investigation and violated his position of "high trust." 

To stay on campus, Hundley changed his title to "founder and CEO." 

Then the financial problems appeared. 

The school district tried making a recovery plan with Hundley and CFO Cornell Maxfield, but Teitelbaum said the pair never responded. 

"Not a single document on the financials was ever given by Lincoln Memorial Academy, despite repeated requests to their CFO to their board," he said. "Not a single document enabled this district to come up with a corrective action plan, to know their true expenses, to be able to analyze their revenues."

The Commissioner of Education stepped in, calling Hundley a jeopardy to the school campus.  That resulted in a take over by the district and Hundley's resignation. 

"He never doubted our children and never doubted our teachers," said teacher Lea Kaiser. 

Staff continued to publicly support Hundley, but his actions captured the attention of the U.S Department of Education. 

They're investigating Hundley and Maxfield for potential violations of federal law, including fraud, bribery/embezzlement, wire fraud and conspiracy. 

Federal Investigators are seeking bank records and a list of all the local, federal and state funds given to the academy. 

The district said it will cooperate with federal investigators, while supporting the 500-plus students who are still enrolled there. 

"They may not have been given the right tools then, but they will be now," said Teitelbaum. 

On Tuesday, August 6, Lincoln Memorial Academy will hold an open house from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. The school's 6th grade orientation will be held Thursday, August 8, from 9 a.m. to noon. 

The first day of school is August 12.