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Former Billings superintendent is investigated for forgery

The former superintendent of tiny Billings Public Schools has been investigated for forging the signatures of other school board members during her tenure.
by Andrew Knittle Published: July 28, 2012

— A former superintendent of tiny Billings Public Schools is under investigation for possibly forging the signatures of school board members on employee contracts.

Susan Ellis, who was the district's top administrator for two years beginning with the 2008-09 school year, has since worked for the state Department of Education as a coordinator. She left that position earlier in the month.

Billings Police Chief Robert Johnson said he took the initial complaint on Ellis from a district secretary, who he says has since been fired.

The complaint was soon sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for further review.

Johnson said it appeared at first that Ellis had embezzled “around $90,000” from the district, but auditors soon discovered it was essentially a data entry error. The possible forgeries were discovered around the same time, he said.

“It looked like there had been something to do with signatures being copied or forged ... on employee contracts or something to that effect,” Johnson said. “That can be a big deal and that is what they were going to look at.”

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown confirmed the state agency is looking into Ellis' activities while she headed up the rural school district.

Specific details about the investigation, including whose signatures may have been forged and an exact time frame, were not yet available due to the ongoing investigation.

Personnel records at the state Education Department show that Ellis was superintendent of Billings Public Schools for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, drawing a total compensation package of $76,070 her first year on the job.

Department spokeswoman Tricia Pemberton said records show that Ellis was paid $90,341 in total compensation in 2009-10, but that the former administrator only worked about half the year.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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