A secretary at Public School 31 The William Lloyd Garrison in the Bronx punched the time clock for the school's principal since 2008, providing her with as much as $40,000 in extra pay, an investigation found.
The Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District issued a report saying the principal, Liza Cruz Diaz, put in for 111 hours that she did not work, a cost to the city school system of about $4,800.
But if she regularly fabricated her hours since 2008, as the payroll secretary said, the cost to the city could be as much as $40,000, investigators said.
The report found that she also charged some expenses to the school for her daughter's Sweet 16 celebration.
“There’s a variety of ways people steal money or time," said Richard J. Condon, the special commissioner of investigation, in a telephone interview. "She was doing this on a daily basis.”
The fabricated hours were predicated on a city provision that allows school employees who work after-school hours to put in for extra pay, Mr. Condon said.
Ms. Cruz Diaz claimed she was supervising after-school activities during the 111 hours, but Mr. Condon said 72 time stamps of Ms. Cruz Diaz and the payroll secretary, Melissa Carey, matched exactly. Mr. Condon said Ms. Carey admitted punching out Ms. Cruz Diaz hours after she had left the school building.
According to the report, Ms. Cruz Diaz told investigators the reason she was leaving school early but requested that it remain confidential.
Mr. Condon said his office was alerted to the practice in the summer of 2010 by a whistle-blower who is connected to the school but was not named. Investigators reviewed 47 days of video surveillance from six cameras at P.S. 31. Investigators also followed Ms. Cruz Diaz for two days on personal errands, including a trip to a strip mall after school during hours that she claimed she was working.
Ms. Cruz Diaz, whose annual salary is more than $139,000, also charged more than $92 to the school to purchase metallic sunglasses and necklaces for her daughter's Sweet 16 party. Investigators said she tried to hide the spending after she became aware of the investigation.
Ms. Cruz Diaz has worked in New York City schools for 22 years and has been principal at P.S. 31 since 2006. The K-8 school, which is in the South Bronx, has 666 students and earned a C on its last city progress report. Inside Schools said the school improved under her watch.
But a spokeswoman for the city's Education Department said in an e-mail message that the city is "reassigning the principal today as we seek termination and recoup per session pay. We also will take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Carey."
Mr. Condon said his office was turning the investigation over to the Bronx district attorney’s office, as well as to the New York State Department of Education.
A person reached at the main number at P.S. 31 declined to comment.