Band boosters elect new officers after theft

The Costa Mesa High School Band Boosters Club is moving forward with new officers, increased parental involvement and the community's renewed support after the arrest of a parent who allegedly stole $40,000 for the program.

Newly elected Boosters Club president Mariel LeValley said she has a new list of checks and balances she's going to ensure are followed.

"We need to have a good plan in place," she said. "We need to have parents in place. We need more parents. This is a big lesson to learn."

The Boosters Club held officers elections Monday evening for all positions after asking its treasurer and president — Jennifer Border-Piatti, 50, and her husband, Robert Piatti, respectively — to step down after Border-Piatti, a former Parent Teacher Student Assn. president, was arrested Oct. 25 on suspicion of embezzling from the club. Robert Piatti is not accused of any wrongdoing.

"I'm really impressed with how it's been handled," said parent Yvette Callender. "It's an unfortunate situation, but it's time to move forward."

LeValley said, in the future, two signatures will be required on checks, all bylaws will be followed closely and she wants to create a monthly parent auditing committee as well as bring in an outside auditor at least once a year.

Band Director Sandy Gilboe also said there will be no more ATM withdrawals.

Police allege Border-Piatti made credit card purchases and ATM withdrawals from the Boosters Club account that were not related to club business over the years.

The alleged theft was difficult on the students, but they also lost someone they looked up to, LeValley said.

For Alma Carrillo, 15 and Margarita Hernadez, 15, the situation has made them lose trust.

LeValley said she wants to regain that trust by getting students involved and building better relationships with the kids.

The school community has stepped forward by calling, texting and emailing LeValley to ask how they can help, she said. Parents outside the program have offered to volunteer and donated food to be sold at concessions to raise funds, she said.

Margarita said she's seen residents give more — two people even emptying out their entire piggy banks — during spare change walks after hearing what happened.

Gilboe has also seen an increase in donations, although not enough to cover what was allegedly stolen.

After the meeting, Gilboe began crying when a parent placed a $1,000 donation in her hand.

The program is looking for any help it can get whether it be through volunteering or money, LeValley said.

It costs about $60,000 a year to run a quality, competitive program for staff, competition entry fees, props and other costs, Gilboe said.

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One way to support the program is by attending the South Coast Invitational Marching Band Tournament at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Jim Scott Stadium, 2323 Placentia Ave. Mesa goes on at 7:30 p.m.

The $10 entrance fee goes to supporting the marching band.

"The show is going to be really nice," LeValley said. "We have great schools and great shows."

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