Former Southside Elementary PTO volunteer charged with stealing more than $7,000 from the organization

Tiffani Donovan of Sarasota arrested on Aug. 2; court records show she and Timothy Donovan owed close to $10,000 to a California company during the period of the alleged thefts

Tiffani Donovan. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department

A Sarasota woman has been charged for allegedly stealing checks totaling $7,325 made out to the Southside Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), the Sarasota Police Department reported on Aug. 3.

Tiffani Donovan, 48, of 2225 Bougainvillea St., was arrested on Aug. 2 after being charged with 11 counts of Uttering a Forged Check and one count of Scheme to Defraud after allegedly depositing checks made payable to the Southside Elementary PTO in her personal bank account, a Police Department news release says. She was ordered held under $1,500 bond on each count, for a total of $18,000, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections Division website. Donovan was released on bond on Aug. 2, the website shows.

According to the Police Department report, Donovan is an employee of Sarasota Magazine; she was arrested at the publication’s office on South Pineapple Avenue in downtown Sarasota.

In May 2017, the four officers of the Southside Elementary PTO came to the Sarasota Police Department to report missing funds, the police report points out. They explained to officers that the PTO has several different groups within the organization that solicit and collect funds, the report adds — through checks, cash and credit cards processed through PayPal.

The PTO officers told the Police Department that one of the groups raising money — Southside Partners — handles a program called Southside Business Partners, the report says. That committee had three members who, over the course of several years, “were the key people responsible for handling the funds for the group,” the report notes. One of them was Donovan, the report says; she served on the committee from August 2015 to October 2016.

Her replacement with that group was Rae Milligan, who brought the financial discrepancies to the attention of the PTO, the report continues.

The PTO leaders reviewed spreadsheets from several of their committees in an effort to determine how much money was missing, the report adds. However, because of the processes the organization uses in its fundraising and the number of people involved, the report says, they encountered difficulties.

Southside Elementary School is located at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Webber Street in Sarasota. File photo

For example, the report continues, students who attend the school often drop off at the Southside office both checks made out to the PTO and cash from their parents for the organization; other parents would follow the same practice in the course of bringing their children to school. The money and checks then were placed in an open mail slot in an unsecured area of the office, the report notes.

PTO leaders started to investigate the matter of the apparently stolen checks by sending emails to their committee members and by asking questions at PTO meetings, the report says. They also called parents. Those efforts led to the spread of rumors through the school, the report points out.

On May 24, Margaret Barnes, president of the PTO, received an email from Donovan saying Donovan wanted to discuss the missing funds, the police report notes. The email added, “I have vital information to get this resolved. Please call me as soon as you can.”

Additionally, the report says, the PTO found that the checks had been deposited with Chase bank, though the organization uses SunTrust. A call to the Chase’s law enforcement line determined that all the checks had been deposited in the same account, the report adds. The bank verified that that account was in Donovan’s name, the report says, and that the 11 checks were put into that account between July 4, 2016 and Dec. 17, 2016. All of them had been made out to the Southside PTO and endorsed by hand by Donovan, the report adds.

The Silvertooth Judicial Center is located on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. File photo

Records in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court show that on Aug. 15, 2016, a firm in Cypress, Calif. — Account Management Services — filed a Motion for Continuing Writ of Garnishment Against Salary and Wages against Tiffani Donovan and Timothy Donovan, saying they are employed by Digital Earth Network on Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota. The motion points out that on March 21, 2011, a judgment in California found that the couple owed $9,988.84 to Account Management Services, plus interest at the rate set by the Comptroller of the State of Florida. The motion added that Account Management Services “does not believe that [Tiffani Donovan and Timothy Donovan] have in their possession visible property on which a levy can be made to satisfy the judgment.” Therefore, the company was seeking the garnishment of their salaries and wages.

An affidavit in the case — filed on June 7, 2016 — says the last known address of Tiffani Donovan and Timothy Donovan was 2225 Bougainvillea St. in Sarasota.

The last document in that case docket shows that the writ was served on Aug. 29, 2016 to “a person in charge of the recipient’s private mailbox” at the Digital Earth Network address.

Just after 10 a.m. on Aug. 3, the Sarasota County School District issued the following statement: “The parent/volunteer who has been charged with depositing funds from Southside Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization into her personal bank accounts has been blocked from our volunteer list. She is no longer able to volunteer at any schools in our district, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.”

The statement adds, “Although the PTO is an independent organization and the funds in question were not district funds, school and district personnel as well as members of the Southside PTO are cooperating with the Sarasota Police Department in the investigation.”

The news release issued by the Sarasota Police Department on Aug. 3 says, “The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.” Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Civilian Investigator Melody Shimmell at 954-7032, leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS or going online at