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Software to conduct random inventory at JCC bookstore

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Jefferson Community College officials still are not certain exactly how much money was taken from the bookstore run by the Faculty Student Association, but they say the software program that brought the embezzlement to light will prevent it from happening again.

The new software, which was installed in April, will conduct full inventories at random.

“The process is going to be streamlined to prevent another occurrence like this,” said David J. Schissler, FSA executive director.

The suspect in the incident, Nancy M. Lear, Dexter, was an FSA employee. She is accused of taking more than $65,000 from the store and was charged Dec. 11 with second-degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records.

Before the software was installed, officials were trying to figure out why they were making inventory “adjustments” of up to $100,000 each year.

The FSA is an independent nonprofit organization that dates back to 1969, the year JCC was first accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Philadelphia, PA.

It is a $3 million, self-sufficient operation that manages the bookstore, food service, child-care center, campus catering and vending services.

The FSA is “very, very student oriented,” said Jack N. Donato, president of the board that oversees the association. “The first question a board member is going to ask is how many students are going to be involved (in a particular program) and to what degree.”

Profits generated by the FSA go toward funding programs such as the North Country Writers Festival, Math Awareness Week activities, the spaghetti bridge competition, National Chemistry Week activities, Super Science Saturday and Senior Send-Off.

A flagship program gives paramedic students experience working in challenging environments.

“Our program director is from Long Island and made arrangements to have them ride on ambulances in New York City. The FSA provides the lodging,” said Mr. Donato.

The FSA board is composed of seven staff and faculty members and five students.

Most of the money that passes through FSA’s hands is from the sale of student textbooks, which can run individuals up to $1,150 a year.

The FSA can reduce costs by selling ebooks and used textbooks and renting textbooks. Students also can pay for their textbooks with financial aid.

The bookstore is the sole profitable enterprise managed by the FSA. It takes in $1 million to $2 million per year, helping to carry the other operations.

In the embezzlement case, books already in stock apparently were scanned into the computer as returns, allowing the clerk to pocket the refund money.

To complete this operation, the clerk would have had to enter a nine-digit student identification number. The made-up numbers used by the clerk did not trip any alarms because the bookstore software was not linked to the college’s registration database.

Though the new bookstore software is designed to conduct random audits, there are no immediate plans to integrate the bookstore and college systems more tightly to close the loophole that allowed the crime to take place.

“It’s a process when you implement a piece of software. There’s a lot of variables at stake,” said Daniel J. Dupee II, JCC’s vice president for administration and finance.

Though the two systems eventually may talk to each other, joining them together will take some time, Mr. Dupee said.

Having the FSA handle operations like the bookstore and dining facilities is advantageous to the college, he said.

“If there were ever any losses in that organization and it were operated by the college, you can’t use state aid or tuition dollars,” Mr. Dupee said. “We’d have to do it with our offsetting revenues. And there’s a limitation on the revenue side. Some of the things that they can do with their revenue, we can’t use our operating dollars to do that.”

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