The FBI is now investigating embezzlement claims at a Huntersville private school, the agency’s Charlotte office said Wednesday.
The investigation follows news that the chief financial officer of SouthLake Christian Academy and the pastor who helped found the school 20 years ago had resigned amid a probe into financial mismanagement. The FBI will be joined by the Huntersville Police Department.
Wayne Parker, SouthLake’s CFO and former head of school, resigned unexpectedly via email last month as the school began a routine look at its finances. Parker hasn’t replied to messages from SouthLake officials since he resigned, said Robert Sawyer II, the school’s attorney.
A month later, Wade Malloy, senior pastor at SouthLake Presbyterian Church, resigned as school officials dug further into the school’s finances and confronted him about discrepancies, Sawyer said.
Sawyer declined to say how much money is thought to be missing.
FBI Charlotte office spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said she could be no more specific about the investigation other than to confirm it involves “allegations of embezzlement.”
On Wednesday, Sawyer told the Observer that a church elder went to the Huntersville Police Department on Saturday morning to report the financial irregularities. The elder reported the irregularities with the approval of SouthLake Presbyterian Church’s session, or governing body, Sawyer said.
“We’re going to let the FBI do their investigation and cooperate with them to the fullest extent possible,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said last week that the school hadn’t yet contacted the Huntersville Police Department or federal authorities because SouthLake officials had been in “theological, philosophical discussions about when to take a brother before a magistrate.”
The school and church are at N.C. 73 and Hagers Ferry Road in Mecklenburg County on Lake Norman.
Sawyer said the school called in outside consultants this summer to look into its operations as part of a standard review. Officials hadn’t suspected financial irregularities until Parker was contacted to help with the financial part of the review and suddenly resigned, Sawyer said.
The private school was founded in 1994 as a mission of SouthLake Presbyterian Church and has about 800 students, prekindergarten through high school, and about 100 faculty and staff.
“We educate students and teach the gospel – we do not conduct investigations,” interim Head of School Phillip Horton said in a statement last week. “We will hand over what we know to the proper authorities and fully support their investigation.”
Efforts by the Observer to reach Malloy and Parker, who was head of school until he became the CFO in June, were unsuccessful.
“We have no comment,” said Parker’s lawyer, George Laughrun of Charlotte. “We don’t know what the evidence will show.”
Parker had been at the school for 18 years. He received his doctorate of education from LaSalle University in Philadelphia and his MBA from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer.
Malloy and his wife of 41 years have three children, according to the church’s website.
He attended the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where he was raised. He majored in history before completing a master of divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.
He was SouthLake’s “church planter” in 1992 and has been its only senior pastor.