Exclusive – Accused PTA Treasurer Tells Her Story

“They are accusing me of taking money,” Cheri Noda spoke in a tone of tearful exhaustion, “and I want you to know that I would never do such a thing.” The former treasurer of the El Rincon PTA has been under suspicion of mishandling funds, and is currently under investigation by the Culver City Police. At the heart of the investigation is $8,000 missing from the bank deposit from a fundraiser that grossed $26,000.

“I turned myself in to the police yesterday. I have nothing to hide.”

In an hour-long conversation, Cheri gave Culver City Crossroads her side of the story.

“When I stepped into the shoes of the treasurer at the El Rincon PTA, it was halfway through the last school year and I was taking over for someone who said they were moving. Her checks were not done the way they were supposed to have been done. Her paperwork was a mess.”

“I inherited 12 boxes of accounting that [someone else] had not even done, and all the forms that were missing from that lot, all the papers that were not in the right order, it took me months to get all that organized.

“No one seemed to care that the finances were in such a mess. And I did. I cared. I took a lot of time and trouble to get it all done. Now I’m being accused of taking the money. I turned myself in to the Culver City Police Department yesterday [Nov. 15]. I have nothing to hide.”

“I spent two hours being interviewed by Detective Raya , who spoke to me as if I were a terrible person, and I’m not. All I did was volunteer and now I’m being blamed.”

‘The reason I left the school [El Rincon] wasn’t because of the PTA, it was because of my son.”

“He has had an IEP [Individual Education Program ] and we asked him to remove him from the special ed classroom. He’s met all of his goals for the last three years, he’s old enough now to be in a regular classroom, and I felt that being in the special ed class had become too limiting for him. It’ s time to get him mainstreamed. They said the only way to remove him from special ed was to remove him from the school. There was no space available in any other classroom. Andrew Sitelo (Director of Pupil Services) said I could move him to Linwood E. Howe.”

“This is when they started asking me for all the forms and boxes and stuff. People think that I was leaving because of the missing money, that’s not it at all.”

Returning to the subject of the missing funds, Noda continued, “When we accounted for our fundraiser, the Pacific fundraiser, the one with the cookie dough, I was one of four people counting the money. Let me tell you, that took almost four days of adding up cash and checks and money orders – it was a lot of work.”

“On that Friday we had $26,000 in cash, and checks and money orders and all that went into the deposit bag. [El Rincon Principal Reginald] Brunson said he was going to put it in the closet, and we wrote that down. I thought we should have put it into the safe, but he thought having it in the closet was fine, and we all signed off on it.”

“Come Monday morning, (another member of the PTA) went to get the bag, and we took the money to the teachers lounge. I should have recounted every single penny in that bag, and I didn’t. That is my failing as a treasurer. I should have reconfirmed that it was all there, and I didn’t.”

“Then I went to the bank, and they have pictures of me going to the bank. This $8,000 was on the deposit, but I did not recheck that money bag on Monday.”

“I told the police, I have nothing to hide, come to my house. The police said we have a search warrant . I asked them please to not scare my kids. The police turned my house upside down, they trashed this place, and of course they did not find anything- there’s nothing to find.”

“Let me tell you, we are wealthy people. My husband and my mother-in-law just sold a building that they owned. I would never steal from anybody, and I would never dream of stealing from children.”

“I went to the detective and said I’m not even going to hire a lawyer, because I didn’t do anything wrong. I gave them the password to my email, they already have the keys to my house. I have nothing to hide.”

While the matter is still under investigation by the CCPD, it will be up to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to decide if there is a sufficient cause to prosecute.

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11 Comments

  1. Dear Judith,

    This article is completely unprofessional! At what point do you take the community into consideration! You have a new principal who is dedicated and cares about this school and the community. They have not had this kind of commitment in years and your poorly written article is doing nothing but stirring up controversy. This is clearly a bias view of a situation that should not be sensationalized! Trying to give reasonable doubt by naming other names is not for you to print. If I was someone you chose to persecute publicly, you would already been served a law suit for slander! You are an irresponsible journalist who should not be allowed to publish. Your motto is “Where good people intersect with good news” unfortunately this is not what you represent!

  2. Dear Cheri – Although I do not know you, your side of the story is very believable. I am sorry that you have had to go through so much; I hope this gets resolved soon.

  3. 1. El Rincon, like all public schools, is required by federal law to provide the Least Restrictive Environment to students with disabilities. To blame the school and your sons IEP for your thievery is a low below that of a common thief, like you.

    2. To blame El Rinon’s new principal, who is doing a WONDERFUL job of reviving our school community is pretty shallow.

    3. Get used to wearing “orange”-I believe that’s the color for you (and other inmates)

  4. Dear Lisa,
    Other news sources have printed articles indicting Ms. Noda because she left the PTA and that she and other “new” volunteers would be the most likely suspects. Ms. Noda is fingered by other named PTA members based on conjecture, not fact; therefore, I think Ms. Noda has a right to tell her story. Also, this story is an interview and 95% of the comments are made by Cheri Noda (perhaps you didn’t notice the quotation marks?). Judith is reporting verbatim what she was told and has shown no bias.

  5. Judith,
    I disagree with Lisa above. Your interview did not read as biased to me. Innocent until proven otherwise. It is a real shame what happened, but I would hope we have all the facts before finding guilt.

  6. Ms. Noda’s account makes no sense since ALL the money (save a few dollars) went missing from this year AND last year, not just $8000.. The theft began last year started when she took over as treasurer. Funds went missing beginning in January 2011. Unconscionable to even bring the new principal into this. He wasn’t hired until July of 2012. Clearly this “journalist” hadn’t even bothered to do even a little fact checking. I am disgusted!

  7. The Culver City USD has knowledge of one of the parent reps misappropriating large amounts of the public funds from the district. Please demand to know of the investigation in to the slush fund scandal at Culver City HS. You should be able to do a public request for information now that their investigation has “concluded.” The false invoices written to the district were by one of Culver City PD own officers. That officer is a parent rep at El Rincon Elementary. The detective, Det. Raya, for Culver City PD seems to have not wanted to do a thorough investigation of the slush funds and turned the investigation in to the DA without first collecting the evidence. Its the same detective who is investigating the El Rincon scandal. Something is fishy! Tax payers…exercise your right to information. You can public request the CCUSD, the CCPD and/or the DA office. You can also contact PBS investigative reporter David Nazar who is investigating the entire slush fund scandal. Orange County Register, Scott Martingdale has also been investigating the scandal although his focus has been OC.

  8. Please note the latest in the PTA Missing Funds saga: A Preliminary Hearing in The People of the State of California vs. Cheryl Lynn Noda is scheduled for 8:30am on Friday, May 18 at LA Airport Courthouse, Department 142, 11701 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045. Steve Cooley, District Attorney, can be reached at (310) 727-6500.

  9. AFTER 2 YEARS OF SERVICE AND ALOT OF PRAYING
    CHERYL IS DOING GREAT AND ALL IS GOOD.
    PLEASE FORGIVE THOSE WHO NEED TO BE FORGIVEN,WE ARE PRAYING YOU DO.

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