Monday, July 7, 2014

Audit Response/Update on Open Records Requests

We would like to address the findings of the audit recently released by the Oak Ridge School system. This audit was conducted after our son, Alex Heitman, died unexpectedly in the summer of 2011. We’ve tried for nearly three years to obtain public information from your school system, police department and court system with very little success. We were first notified of this audit two days before it was released to the press by Dr. Bruce Borchers when he informed us on June 18, 2014 that he was responding to a press inquiry.

It is important for people to understand that most of the findings, eleven of fifteen, reveal that though there were a number of ways that Alex could have transferred funds into his personal possession, no such transactions were found.

Since the release of the audit, we have attempted to obtain the documentation that supports the findings. The auditor refuses to provide the names of the clerks who are referenced in the findings as having processed the transactions, and the Oak Ridge Schools refuse to turn over any documentation on the basis that we are not Tennessee residents. They have informed us that if we recruit the assistance of a Tennessee resident, they will charge no less than $2,000 for this information we have requested. We will seek out alternatives and clarification in the coming weeks.

At this point, we see no reason to believe that these findings directly or definitively prove that Alex did anything wrong. To start, the suggestion that Alex purchased for himself an iPad “that was not discussed with or approved by his supervisor” is absurd since his supervisors were very aware of it because there are a number of work emails that contain the phrase “sent from my iPad.” We also found where his supervisor, Karen Gagliano, acknowledges his possession of the iPad in this email discussion they had just 10 days before he died. 

As we have explained elsewhere, most of the charges that were questioned are attributable to his educational expenses (he was a graduate student.) Alex took this job in large part because he had an agreement with Dr. Tom Bailey that the school system would help pay for his continuing education. According to the auditor, Dr. Bailey was included in these audit discussions. We would like to know if he acknowledged this agreement but presume that he did not or it would not have been annotated in the findings.

Because two of the findings rely heavily on the claim made by Karen Gagliano that Alex used her signature stamp without her permission, we have requested a copy of the log that would track whomever had access to it. This log may be key in establishing the veracity of Ms. Gagliano’s claim since, according to at least one past employee, her signature stamp was easily accessible and used by most of the accounting office.

We also know that both Gagliano and Bailey’s signature stamps (and possibly software, banking data and digital fingerprints) may have gone missing for a two week period about four months before Alex died. Anderson County Clerk, Tyler Mayes has declined to provide us with the court documents that explain how these internal items came into the possession of Gina Austin, the creator of over $6,000 worth of counterfeit checks. Mr. Mayes, did, however, verify that the Board of Education Chairman, Keys Fillauer, was also the sitting Grand Jury Foreman at the time (and has been since 2006) who Alex may have been testifying in this case. 

We believe that Ms. Austin may have had an inside connection into the school administration. Given the security breaches that Alex was trying to correct, even in the last week of his life, maybe that connecting person knows more about the events detailed in Dr. Bailey’s memo to police two days after Alex died. Maybe that person was someone Alex had identified or was on the verge of identifying when he was cooperating with multiple anti-fraud efforts. We may never know because of the high level of secrecy involved in Grand Jury Proceedings. Therefore, we publicly call upon Mr. Fillauer to help us understand his role on both bodies and the details that Mr. Mayes refuses to provide. 

We continue our appeal to the public. If you have insight into what was going on in the Oak Ridge Schools in 2011 or what happened to Alex the day he was forced to forego his vacation and instead meet the demands of Dr. Bailey, please contact us at whathappenedtoalexheitman@gmail.com

Friday, June 20, 2014

East Tennessee News Breaks

We are excited to hear that Alex’s story is finally receiving some coverage in the East TN local news.  As of today, two outlets (the Oak Ridger and the Knoxville News Sentinel) have run stories. Both stories stem from records that the Oak Ridge Schools released to the press yesterday. We received a letter on Wednesday from the current superintendent, Dr. Bruce Borchers informing us that they would be releasing some specific files that we’d been trying to access for nearly three years. Those files include two boxes of emails, an audit that was conducted after Alex’s death and some sparse phone records.

We do not have access to the emails at this time as they are physically located in Tennessee but Dr. Borchers did send us a copy of this audit letter. Though some of the statements may be open to interpretation, we are relieved to finally have this critical document in our possession for a number of reasons.

First, we can now definitively quash the rumor that Alex had been embezzling money. As we discussed in our letter to the FBI, the 2010 audit that Alex had signed off on was amended by nearly $1,000,000 after his death.  This document confirms what we’d been told by a number of authorities including DA Dave Clark and Dr. Bailey that Alex had not done anything that would rise to the level of suicide. Not even close. The total amounts in question, if proven to be true, equal less than $10,000.

Second, most of those amounts are attributable to his educational expenses (he was a graduate student) for which he had an agreement with Dr. Bailey that the school system would help pay for. We will, of course, seek out documentation that validates what Alex had told us about this agreement.

Third, because Alex had been cooperating with multiple anti-fraud efforts, it appears very likely that perpetrators may have attempted to undermine and thwart his efforts. We still have many dots to connect, but the audit letter references the misuse of Karen Gagliano’s signature stamp. We are reminded that both her and Dr. Bailey’s signature stamps were used in the check cashing fraud scheme as were software, banking data and digital fingerprints. We have submitted requests to the Anderson County Clerk, Tyler Mayes, to provide us with the court documents that explain how these internal items came into the possession of Gina Austin, the creator of the dozens of counterfeit checks that were cashed just a few short months before Alex’s death.

And then there is this. Even though the Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi had told us that he had already turned over all of the files his department possessed surrounding Alex’s death and the check cashing ring, we were recently provided this and other files. In it, Dr. Bailey explains why he demanded that Alex come in for a meeting instead of going on his planned vacation. We still need to delve into this document further but it leaves us wondering if any of the seven other school employees were ever interviewed by the authorities. According to the ORPD records, Bailey was the only person they interviewed. Of course, given Chief Akagi’s track record of inaccuracies, we cannot be sure. We also wonder if the FBI interviewed any of them. We will be following up with them shortly.

We remain open to all possibilities and know that we will likely never have all of our questions answered, but at this point, we remain undeterred. 





Monday, May 26, 2014

Butler Follow Up Commentary

Chris Butler has continued to show interest in our story and the lack of cooperation we've received from local authorities and local press. He's right on all counts, especially when he says, "Perceptions, when not corrected with facts, give people leverage to expand their imaginations in all kinds of unhealthy ways — and matters of public safety demand facts."

It's hard enough trying to understand what happened to our son. But being misled and ignored make the pain so much worse. We are so very thankful for his help.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fighting Fraud

Alex was very good at what he did. Shortly before his death, he became the first person in Tennessee to earn the designation of Certified Administrator of School Finance and Operations from the Association of School Business Officials International.

His job carried with it tremendous responsibility, which was evident in the hundreds of his work files we’ve reviewed. From day one, as he’d told us, he was cleaning up messes. Alex was continually working to ensure that the school district financials were properly maintained and that all monies were accounted for. 

As we mentioned in our letter to the FBI, Alex had been revising policies and giving training to staff to combat fraud, waste and abuse within the system. We presume this is what Mr. Bailey meant when he told us, “The biggest thing that Alex was doing was stepping on peoples toes because he was doing his job well.”

During the Spring of 2011, Alex prepared this presentation that emphasizes Tennessee law on fraud reporting.  One month before his death in June 2011, Alex developed this power point and gave training to staff based on negative 2010 audit findings.

As we understand it, audit findings do not necessarily expose fraud or waste; rather, they highlight weaknesses or risks in controls and procedures. Management is left to delve into those discoveries and take corrective actions. After reviewing the 2010 audit and these power points, these statements indicate that Alex found numerous problems throughout multiple areas of the school system:

“correction – not cover-up….improper or no bids….deficit fund balances….inadequate collection records…..bank deposits not made timely….purchase authorizations not completed properly, dated after invoice…..inadequate separation of duties…invoice amount does not equal check amount…collection records not prepared for all collections"

Findings Deserving Undivided Attention:

·         Cash/check ration in collection records did not agree with bank
·         Receipts did not agree with collection logs
·         Money receipted does not reconcile with deposits
·         No deposits for October, February and June
·         Receipts could not be traced to deposit
·         Receipt totals not matched with deposit totals
·         Teacher receipts not issued to payee and had wrong date
·         Invoice amount does not equal check amount”


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Progress Report

We are pleased to report that we are already receiving a high volume of visits due to Mr. Butler’s reporting of our FBI inquiry. He has already posted another follow up story.  


We cannot thank him enough for helping us. We also must thank the countless individuals in both Wisconsin and Tennessee who’ve helped us come this far. This has been a collaborative effort and we could not have done it without each and every one of you!

And though we are still waiting for an acknowledgement from the FBI and the elected representatives we contacted, we are sustained by the outpouring of supportive responses we’ve received. You can continue to help by helping us spread the word by sharing this website with as many of your friends as possible. You can also subscribe to updates using the email/submit button to the left.

Due to the volume of emails and calls that we are receiving, we cannot respond as quickly as we would like. If you are awaiting our response, please know that we will get back with you as soon as we are able. We both work full time jobs and have limited time during the week. Thank you so much for wanting to help and we will be in touch very soon!

In the coming days, we will also develop a Face Book page and Twitter account.

Please check back often and thank you again!


Donnie & Annette Heitman

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Our Official Request of the FBI

FBI Headquarters 
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
(202) 324-3000

April 8, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

We are formally requesting that your office conduct an investigation into the death and circumstances surrounding the death of our son, Alexander (Alex) J. Heitman. At the time of his death, Alex was a two year resident of Knoxville, TN and an employee of the Oak Ridge School District Business Office. On July 25, 2011, he was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head in a remote part of Cocke County, TN, a place where he had never been before which was located 67 miles from his home and 80 miles from his intended destination that morning, his office at the Oak Ridge School District Administration Building.

Questionable cause of death

From listening to 911 audio files, Alex’s death was presumed to be a suicide prior to the discovery of his body and prior to the arrival of the coroner. This presumption seems to be the only basis for the annotation (of suicide) on his final death certificate. At the time, we were in shock because we had no reason to believe he would commit suicide. To date, we have not been provided any evidence to support this claim. Though we have made repeated requests to various offices, we’ve received no documentation from any authority that indicates who made the initial suggestion or final determination that Alex committed suicide.

We were told by Cocke County Detective Richard Caldwell that they’d have to do an autopsy to confirm what caused his death because they couldn’t determine the point of entry and it appeared inconsistent with suicide. When we asked what he meant, he said that someone else could have done this. In fact, in one of the calls between Cocke County officials, a dispatcher reported to the Knoxville PD that it appeared he was shot in the head and not the mouth, which contradicts the autopsy findings.

Though the autopsy was ordered because there was a question of whether or not Alex’s death was a suicide, the autopsy report does not attribute the cause of death listed (shotgun wound of head) to suicide or homicide.

We are also told by the man who reported finding Alex’s body to police, Nathan Wilde, that he found evidence left at the scene the following day to include portions of Alex’s brain and a shotgun shell casing. Without this evidence, we fail to understand how any autopsy could prove to be conclusive. It would seem impossible to definitively rule on the total number of shots fired or the angle from which they were fired. We believe that an “inconclusive” finding, at the very least, would have been more appropriate.

Missing Documentation

Though we’ve been advised by the Tennessee Open Records Counsel, Elisha Hodge, that we are entitled to many of these documents, we’ve been unable to obtain or have been denied access to the following:

1.      Ballistics and fingerprints: Even though we were told by Cocke County Detective Richard Caldwell that a full investigation was done, we were informed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations  that no ballistics or fingerprints were ordered by the District Attorney and therefore none were performed. We therefore have no confirmation that the guns found at the scene were fired or by whom. Furthermore, though the guns were willed to his father, to this day, Detective Woods refuses to turn them over to us. He’d even told us at one point that they’d been lost.
2.      Coroner’s Report: Terry Jarnigan was the coroner who arrived on the scene. We’ve requested a copy of his report and have received no response.
3.      The Medical Examiner’s Report and Photos. Both Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Cogswell from UT Medical Center who performed Alex’s autopsy and his supervisor, Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan have refused us access to the autopsy photos and internal report. The basis of their refusal is two-fold. First, they site ownership by Cocke County since they paid for the autopsy. Second, they claim a concern that they would be lost in the mail. Instead, they offer us the opportunity to view them in person, knowing that we live in Wisconsin.
4.      Crime Scene Photos:  We requested the complete set of unedited crime scene photos of our son’s body and the surrounding evidence. Only after many months of begging and pleading did Detective Derek Woods finally send us some photos. To our dismay, we received what appeared to be doctored photos. None of the photos show Alex’s face, the front of his body, the brain matter that was avulsed around him or any blood. Most of the photos taken of the surrounding area were missing all together.
5.      Full Police Report: Initially, we were provided with an Incident Report and told that a full, final police report would be forthcoming. We were never provided a final report.
6.      Documentation verifying who identified our son’s body. According to 911 audio files, his car did not have the proper license plates; officers used the VIN number to verify his car. Neither of us (his parents) nor his wife identified his body, which was subsequently cremated. We were prevented by the funeral home staff from viewing his face.
             Neither Cocke County Baptist Hospital nor U.T. Medical Center has records stating who identified his body. Pam at U.T. Medical Center told us that he’d been identified at Cocke County Baptist Hospital prior to his arrival at U.T. Medical Center. None of the documents they provided name a witness or provide any type of signature.
7.      No victimology was conducted to determine motive and intent. Though we are aware of stressors in Alex’s life at the time of his death, we are unconvinced that they were enough to push him over the edge, especially considering he was about to become a father; was pursuing his Ph.D. at the age of 28 and had at least one pending job offer from what we understand. We are aware that the days after his death, the Oak Ridge Police Department (ORPD) Chief of Police Jim Akagi attempted to conduct interviews of Alex’s coworkers and supervisors but was denied access by the schools’ Superintendent, Tom Bailey.
8.      Complete call log from Cocke County Dispatch: Though we received some of the audio files we requested, there appear to be some that are missing. Additionally, a number of side calls were made between Cocke County dispatch and the officers on the scene (“21” requests) which leave many gaps in the sequence of events. We’ve been provided no documentation of those calls.

Significant Errors in Official Records

The few documents (death certificate, autopsy and delayed report of diagnosis) that we have been able to access contain a number of errors:

1.      No time or approximate time of death/injury is listed on any of the documentation.  
2.      The autopsy omits Alex’s legal first name entirely and refers to him only as “John Heitman.” It appears that this error originated with the Baptist Hospital of Cocke County. All of this hospital’s documentation lists him as John, even though they correctly documented his date of birth and the fact that he was an organ donor, both items would have been found on his driver’s license. It is difficult to believe that this hospital or any of the Cocke County officials treated our son with any level of dignity when we hear them state his given first name of Alexander repeatedly on the 911 calls yet make such a blatant error in all of the files about him. The coroner was at the scene and signed off on some of these files. There is no logical reason he should have allowed these errors to happen.
3.      The autopsy lists Dr. Tim McConnell as the authorizing authority; all other documents list the Cocke County ME’s name as “David H. McConnell, M.D.”
4.      The autopsy under-reports his height by 3 inches (if actual height were measured, this would indicate a significant portion of brain matter was left behind as reported by the witness who returned to the scene the following day)
5.      The Delayed Report of Diagnosis (which serves as the final page of the death certificate and was completely handwritten) violated TN state law which states that “All certificates and records relating to vital events must be prepared on a typewriter with a black ribbon….no certificate shall be complete and correct and acceptable for registration:

(b) That does not supply all items of information called for thereon or satisfactorily account for their omission” - The Medical Examiner didn’t date his signature as required in box 26c; 
(c) “That contains alterations or erasures” - Alex’s first name was added after the fact outside of the box
(h) “That contains improper or inconsistent data” - 31e Place of Injury states “home;” Alex’s home was in Knoxville and his body was found 67 miles away in Cocke County.

6.   Hospital documentation incomplete and errors:
  • Instructions for release of body lacked both a physician’s and a witness’ signature and none of the criteria for autopsy were checked (it appears that at least four were applicable).
  • The documents give us reason to question whether or not the Cocke County Medical Examiner David McConnell ever actually examined Alex’s body. His signature is lacking on the files and appears to have been forged by the coroner on the actual Order for Autopsy. 


reporting of and cooperation with investigations

Alex had been cooperating with local law enforcement before his death. However, when we initially requested information about these investigations, ORPD Chief Jim Akagi denied Alex had ever been “in communication with anyone at the Police Department” and Anderson County District Attorney Dave Clark denied his office had issued any subpoenas for his “assistance in an investigation.” It took us two years after his death to receive files both men denied existed.

ORPD reports and Anderson County Court documents revealed Alex had been subpoenaed at least six times the month preceding his death (June) regarding a fraudulent check cashing ring that he’d initially reported to the Oak Ridge Police Department involving one of the Oak Ridge School bank accounts. We have been unable to determine if the originator of the checks has been charged or answered for how she obtained the schools’ account and routing information, the signature stamps of the superintendent and business director or the computer equipment and software she used to print the checks. We also do not know who else may have had access to this same information and equipment.

In fulfillment of these subpoenas, we question who he may have been testifying in front of since the Grand Jury Foreman was/is the Board of Education Chairman for the same school system who employed Alex.

We are also aware that a subsequent federal investigation was to be initiated after some of the people were prosecuted because their pleas involved agreements to “cooperate with federal authorities in a counterfeiting investigation as a condition of probation.” We’ve been unable to learn of the outcome of that investigation.

Alex was served with one final subpoena six days before his death in July. We’ve been unable to verify what the subpoena was for or if Alex was ever able to fulfil the requirements of that subpoena.

Oak Ridge School Financial Issues


We believe Alex may have been cooperating with another investigation into the schools finances while working with the District Attorney Dave Clark and other agencies. In a number of phone conversations (which we documented) after Alex’s death, Mr. Clark led us to believe that he was going to ask the TBI and possibly the FBI to investigate the business conduct of the schools, their accounting department and the school superintendent. Though Mr. Clark did eventually confirm (in an email) that he’d ordered a special audit of the school finances after Alex’s death, he is now denying having ever told us that he was going to pursue the aforementioned indictments. 

We do know that Alex was working on the 2011 audit when he died. He turned in his part the Friday before the Monday that he died. In one of our conversations with Mr. Clark, he informed us that Alex had refused to sign off the audit.

Alex was supposed to be on vacation the week he died, but Bailey demanded that he come in that Monday morning (the day of his death) for a meeting.

Mr. Bailey had made some strange statements the day of Alex’s death. When Annette called him to ask “Where is our son? What do you know?” he said he had not seen him that day at all. Bailey said that they were in the middle of the audit and there were some questions about 2-4 “procedural transactions.” He said that was what the meeting was about, it was “nothing terrible, nothing criminal, nothing fraudulent...”

Bailey’s responses were eerily similar to what  he said to the local papers after it was known that Alex was dead:  “Bailey said he and other school officials, including Heitman and Karen Gagliano, the district's director of business and support services, had in recent weeks met with auditors to discuss the annual audit of the district's financial records. ‘At that point, it wasn't done but it was excellent,’ Bailey said. ‘I had no concerns and I still have no concerns, in my opinion, that would rise to the level of any activity that would give me concern.’ http://www.oakridger.com/features/x555034347/Oak-Ridge-schools-deal-with-death-of-co-worker

Alex shared with family that he was hired to clean up financial issues specifically concerning the 2008 audit which had over $1 million in adjustments. He also shared a number of concerns about the manner in which business was conducted within the administration. Our discussions with one former employee, Lynn Hash, support the claims Alex made to us. Some of those claims are very specific and, in our research, we believe that we have found evidence that corroborate some of his specific statements.

Oak Ridge School System 2010 Audit


Additionally, we have found a number of concerns regarding the Oak Ridge School System 2010 audit. This particular audit contains Alex’s signature and is the only on in at least a decade containing an ORS employee signature other than Tom Bailey or Karen Gagliano (Alex’s supervisors).

This same audit was edited over three months AFTER Alex died as follows: 

NOTE (B): Subsequent to the issuance of the original FY 2010 financial statements in December 2010, management determined that two federal awards involving ARRA funds totaling $948,744 (see page 113) were not included in the schedule of expenditures of federal and state awards. Additional procedures as required by OMB Circular A-133 were performed and these restated financial statements were issued effective November 11, 2011.

Alex had also been revising policies and giving training to staff to combat fraud, waste and abuse within the system based on negative 2010 audit findings. We have the Power Points of one of these training sessions given in June 2011 that elaborates on these findings. Samples pulled directly from this presentation developed by Alex include:

“correction – not cover-up….improper or no bids….deficit fund balances….inadequate collection records…..bank deposits not made timely….purchase authorizations not completed properly, dated after invoice…..inadequate separation of duties…invoice amount does not equal check amount…collection records not prepared for all collections…

Findings Deserving Undivided Attention:
·         Cash/check ration in collection records did not agree with bank
·         Receipts did not agree with collection logs
·         Money receipted does not reconcile with deposits
·         No deposits for October, February and June
·         Receipts could not be traced to deposit
·         Receipt totals not matched with deposit totals
·         Teacher receipts not issued to payee and had wrong date
·         Invoice amount does not equal check amount”

Though he was publicly praised for this training by Assistant Superintendent Ken Green, privately Mr. Green severely scolded him for reasons he never understood.  

The 2010 Audit also contains a tremendous amount of changes with large debt bonds to include refinancing, swaps, derivative interest swap ($15-$20M worth of bond swaps), and the downgrading of one of the banks involved in a rate swap, Depfa Bank.

In closing, Alex was a man of impeccable character who was extremely intelligent and had already achieved a tremendous level of success at a very young age. Even so, he had plans for an even brighter future.  He was a loving husband who was eagerly anticipating the birth of his first child and had gone so far as to adjust his life insurance policy just a few weeks before his death.

In his work and cooperation with authorities, we fear that he may have trusted the wrong person or identified someone that found out about these investigations. We’ve faced extreme difficulties with local authorities in our quest for answers to what happened to our son. We reiterate our request that you open an investigation into the death of our son, Alex Heitman to include the various government agencies that have a possible connection to the events preceding and following his death.

We respectfully ask that you please acknowledge your receipt of this letter and give us the courtesy of indicating your intended course of action. Upon receipt of your reply, we would like to coordinate the release of the documentation we possess that verifies the statements made in this letter.   


Sincerely,


Donnie & Annette Heitman

CC:

Wisconsin State Senator Luther Olsen
P.O. Box 7882,  Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-0751       sen.olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov

Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield
2011 Flagler, Knoxville, TN 37912    sen.stacey.campfield@capitol.tn.gov
(Represents the district of Alex’s former home in Knoxville)

Tennessee State Senator Randy McNally
94 Royal Troon Circle, Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone (865) 483-5544    sen.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov
(Represents the district of Alex’s former employer in Oak Ridge)

U.S. Senator for Wisconsin Ron Johnson
328 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5323

U.S. Sentator for Tennessee Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4944
Oak Ridge
Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann
200 Administration Rd. #100, Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone: (865) 576-1976        Fax: (865) 576-3221

Friday, March 14, 2014

Check Cashing Fraud

http://watchdog.org/132011/records-school-forging-suicide/

We appreciate Chris Butler for continuing to dig into our son's death. One minor correction is worth noting - the total of the known checks involved was nearly $7,000.

Additionally, we still have these questions:

  • How did the person who created the checks get the school account and routing information?
  • How did she get Bailey and Gagliano’s signatures? 
  • How did it go unnoticed for nearly 3 weeks?
  • Who was the sitting Grand Jury Foreman, and for that matter, who all comprised the GJ, for these cases?
  • What became of the federal case that at least one of the suspects was cooperating with?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Our First Break in the Press

After two years of talking with dozens upon dozens of people, we finally have something published regarding our case. THANK YOU Chris Butler and Tennessee Watchdog!

Suicide Solution: Are TN Officials Withholding Information in 2011 Death?


Stay tuned. More information is coming!