EXCLUSIVE: Superintendent accused of abusing funds speaks out

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Former Superintendent of Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA) Lisa Hamm says she can't keep quiet any longer. Until now, she claims the only narrative that's been told comes from Ohio's Auditor Dave Yost.

Hamm reminds people there are two sides to every story.

"I want to respect the process of the justice system. This is a serious injustice, and it's very frustrating.  I want to be able to get the truth out," Lisa Hamm told FOX19's Amy Wagner during an exclusive interview Thursday.

The former superintendent is facing 26 charges of theft in office, unauthorized use of property and tampering with evidence and records. Stephanie Millard, the school's former treasurer, is facing the same charges.

In June, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost spoke with FOX19 about the findings of a special audit of CCPA.

"The wining and dining on the public tab shocks the conscience," Yost said.

Yost says from 2006-2010, Hamm and Millard used $520,000 in public funds in a way that constitutes abuse.  Yost points to trips to Chicago, California and Boston for staff members as well as staff gifts like iPods and gift certificates of evidence of that abuse.

"Do you feel any part of the truth has been out at this point?" Wagner asked Hamm. "I'm not denying the expenditures. Most of the things they say were spent, were spent, but the narrative behind it is false," Hamm said.

Hamm says the trips and gifts were part of the culture she created at CCPA, one that retained talented teachers in a tough urban environment.

"Any organization that has succeeded in obtaining greatness and sustaining greatness over a period of time has the exact same methods," Hamm said.

One of Hamm's methods is incentivizing students. The auditor calls many of those incentives excessive.

One in question, a suite at U.S. Bank Arena for the Justin Bieber concert.

"Justin Bieber. Who got to go to that?" Wagner asked.  "The thing about Justin Bieber is that there's the perception I had such a great time," Hamm said.

Hamm maintains the concert was a reward for students who won an essay contest, not a reward for herself.

"They had a ball but it was not fun for me to take 20 screaming girls to Justin Bieber and then get home at 2 a.m. because I drove," Hamm said.

Hamm also says the money used for the concert suites, as well as all employee gifts and trips, was board-approved and didn't use any taxpayer money.

"This was not state money on any of these things. These are fundraising and sources of revenue that is discretionary funds that the school has in excess of $200,000 a year," Hamm said.

Hamm believes much more will come out in January when she has her day in court. It's a day she says can't come soon enough.

"I can't wait. We have to get through. This has been an immense burden. Putting it into the Lord's hands, that's all I can do," Hamm said.

In our commitment to balanced news, FOX19 reached out to the Ohio Auditor's Office. A spokesperson says the special audit of CCPA speaks for itself.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office says they will wait to discuss the facts of the case in court.

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