Staff and colleagues at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School may have known for years about the actions of culinary arts teacher Peter J. Koines, arrested July 11 by Oak Bluffs police on charges that he stole school-owned kitchen supplies and diverted school funds to buy food for his own commercial kitchen.
According to a police affidavit in Edgartown District Court, "it was common knowledge among faculty" that Mr. Koines was running a private business out of the high school culinary arts center.
While police have focused their criminal investigation on Mr. Koines, the regional high school has now widened its own formal investigation to include the school's vocational director, Kevin Carr.
High school principal Peg Regan has called for Mr. Koines' dismissal but it is understood she also demoted Mr. Carr and reduced his $90,912 salary in the aftermath of her inquiry into the alleged thefts and misuse of funds.
The final say now lies with Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, who has scheduled hearings on Aug. 8 for Mr. Koines and Mr. Carr to give them a chance to tell their sides of the story.
Mr. Koines, who pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, did not return a telephone call from the Gazette, and Mr. Carr declined to comment when reached by phone at his office Wednesday.
The police affidavit shows a disturbing trail of invoices for goods never used by high school students and of brand new equipment purchased for the school kitchen and then never seen again.
The affidavit also leads to questions about how someone could have removed a refrigerator weighing nearly 3,000 pounds, two cooling racks and two stainless steel tables from school grounds without any supervisor taking notice.
According to his job description, Mr. Carr is in charge of all inventory in the vocational areas, acquisition plans for new equipment, managing the vocational budget and overseeing all transactions from the operating budget and student activity funds.
"The checks and balance system is in place, but what I'm looking at now is whether we utilized it," Mrs. Regan told the Gazette this week.
Mrs. Regan and Mr. Cash also said that they had no knowledge of Mr. Koines' alleged crimes until June 3 when a member of an accreditation team visiting the culinary department tipped off the principal about missing equipment and suspicious invoices for pie-baking supplies.
By June 19, after requesting statements from current and former teachers in the culinary arts department and examining invoices, Mrs. Regan decided to fire Mr. Koines.
"For approximately three years, you have operated a private business out of the MVRHS vocational culinary budget and revolving fund," she wrote in her letter of dismissal.
On June 26, the principal called for Oak Bluffs police to investigate Mr. Koines and the theft of $7,000 worth of school-owned kitchen equipment and the possible diversion of $4,000 in school funds to purchase pie shells and frozen fruit for his own pie business.
In addition to being the head of the culinary department at the high school, Mr. Koines sells pies at the Farmer's Market in West Tisbury, which runs from early summer to early fall.
When police searched Mr. Koines' house and outbuilding in Oak Bluffs earlier this month, they found a 20-quart Hobart commercial mixer with the serial number and identification plates removed and a stainless steel, four-door refrigerator made by Traulsen. The serial number and ID plates had also been removed.
"This item has also been disguised by means of an ‘Eagle' brand sticker placed where the Traulsen plaque would be located," Oak Bluffs police officer George Fisher wrote in the affidavit.
Police estimated that the refrigerator, mounted on rollers, weighed between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds. In addition, police found two pie cooling racks, two stainless steel tables, a Grindmaster Thermo-pump dispenser, six cases of canned pie fillings and three plastic ingredient tubs - - all items belonging to the regional high school.
While Mrs. Regan had reported the supplies as stolen in June, it turns out that much of the equipment had actually been missing since last September.
Baking teacher Eniko DeLisle, who has worked in the department for two years, told police in a written statement that two Kitchen-Aid mixers were delivered to the high school last year, but one went home with Mr. Koines.
"Over last summer, several large expensive pieces of kitchen equipment disappeared: a four-door stainless steel reach-in refrigerator, an electric commercial coffee grinder, a stainless steel work bench and a 20-quart Hobart mixer," Ms. DeLisle wrote in her statement.
In order to obtain the search warrant, Oak Bluffs police also relied heavily on statements from Paul VanLandingham, a member of the accreditation team who informed Mrs. Regan about his suspicions.
Mr. VanLandingham, a culinary professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., was a key informant for two reasons: he is the former culinary teacher at the Vineyard high school and he is a 12-year veteran of the Massachusetts state police.
He spent two days at the high school in early June as part of a two-member team conducting a mandated national accreditation inspection.
According to the affidavit, Mr. Koines had told Mr. VanLandingham that he convinced Oak Bluffs health agent Shirley Fauteux to condemn an old cooler so the school would buy a new one. "No one knows what happened to the old unit," police said.
But it wasn't just equipment vanishing that aroused suspicions.
Police stated that Mr. VanLandingham's inspection revealed "a curious inventory of frozen fruit fillings and prepared pie crusts, items that are not part of the curriculum as the student plan requires that they be prepared from scratch."
Ms. DeLisle told police that in June 2001, she saw eight 50-pound bags of flour delivered to the culinary arts center. The flour was gone in September, she told police. School business manager Margaret Serpa showed her the invoices. "The school had paid the bill," the affidavit stated.
According to the affidavit, Ms. Serpa questioned Mr. Koines two years ago about why he was ordering pie supplies in June, when the school year was almost over and when students weren't slated to bake pies until the holiday season when they sold pies to the public.
Ms. Serpa said Mr. Koines explained that he was simply ordering supplies ahead of time for the fall.
But when police scrutinized invoices, they found that between March and June for the last three years Mr. Koines had ordered strawberry, peach and raspberry fillings. "That is not part of the curriculum and not seasonally appropriate for fall school holiday needs," police wrote. "This contradicts Koines' explanation."
What's more, police also found evidence that Mr. Koines placed a second order for pie ingredients between September and November of last year: 16 cases of fillings for pecan, apple, pumpkin and blueberry.
Mr. Regan stated in one of her letters that Mr. Koines never reimbursed the school for any of the questionable orders or invoices.
While police searched Mr. Koines' commercial kitchen at his Oak Bluffs property, statements from Mrs. Regan, Ms. DeLisle and Mr. VanLandingham also accused Mr. Koines of using the high school culinary kitchen for his pie-baking operation.
Mr. VanLandingham "observed Koines' truck parked at odd hours at the culinary arts center," the police affidavit stated.
Ms. DeLisle told police that in June, she returned to the school from a catering job to find a rack of baked pies cooling on racks. She also said that when she came to work on Monday mornings, the culinary kitchen was a mess even though she had cleaned it on Friday after school.
"I just assumed Peter had some sort of rental arrangement with the school," she said.
Police stated that among vocational school faculty, Mr. Koines' private use of the school kitchen was "common knowledge." Former baking teacher Cynthia Cowan, now an English teacher at the high school, wrote a statement saying that "there were casual conversations among members of the vocational department about Peter getting ready for the Farmer's Market."
Said one vocational high school teacher who asked to remain unnamed: "How couldn't you know this was happening? Even if Kevin Carr didn't know, he should have known. That's his job."