Tag Archives: credit cards

Prince George’s School Board Members Continued Using Taxpayer-Funded Credit Cards After Vote to End Them

school-board-pic4Some members of the Prince George’s County School Board continued using taxpayer-funded credit cards for months after voting to eliminate those cards, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.

After a 2014 News4 I-Team review found board members used credit cards for thousands of dollars of meal and hotel expenses within close range of their offices, the board voted unanimously to end its credit card program in January. But the I-Team’s review of 2015 board receipts and expenses showed at least two board members continued to make local meal purchases with those credit cards through April.

Several of those purchases were made by Board member Carolyn Boston, who formally introduced the credit card ban at a board meeting in January. Boston is also one of a handful of board members who purchased thousands of dollars in meals in 2014, including room service breakfast and seafood meals at restaurants within minutes of the board’s offices. Her 2015 expenses included more restaurant meals in Prince George’s County in the weeks after the vote. She also swiped her board credit card for a dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House during an education conference in Tennessee.

The I-Team also obtained credit card expense receipts from Board member Patricia Eubanks, showing a series of meal expenses in Prince George’s County after the Jan. 22 vote. The meals include a $90 lunch meeting at a Joe’s Crab Shack with two guests.

School Board president Segun Eubanks said, in the days after the vote, the board chose to delay the cancellation of its credit cards until April 1. “We needed to have some leeway to complete the process,” Eubanks said. “It was never our intent to be disingenuous or hide anything from the public.” The April 1 deadline was made part of the public record, school officials said. The deadline was not publicly specified at either the January or February school board meetings in which the credit card policy was official approved.

Under the new expense policy, board members will pay meal and lodging expenses out-of-pocket, then seek reimbursement from the district. Board president Eubanks said the newly crafted policy will limit board members to four taxpayer-funded meals per month.

Eubanks said none of the board member meal purchases made before or after the Jan. 22 vote violated board rules or laws. No credit card purchases have been made since April, he said. “The cards are done,” he said. “No one is using them. They are completely in our past.”

Carolyn Boston and Patricia Eubanks declined requests for interviews. In a statement on their behalf, a school spokeswoman said the meal and room service expenses during out-of-town travel were justified. “Often times the host hotel is in the downtown area within walking distance of a narrow selection of restaurants,” the statement said. “In some cases, board members attend all-day professional development and board members use what is most convenient for them; therefore, dine in their room. It’s important to note that the Board was in compliance with the allowable daily meal expense according to the new reimbursement policy.”

via NBC4


Taking a swipe at the credit card cloud in Prince George’s.

School board decision to nix charge accounts was long overdue


PGCPS Sasscer – System HQ

Elected officials’ use of credit cards has been like bad plumbing: every time Prince Georgians thought the problem was fixed, another leak seemed to pop up.

Many remember the audit of the Prince George’s County school board in 2000, when lax accounting and widespread abuse of expense accounts were revealed. Questions surfaced about some board members charging items that did not appear to be related to their board duties, overspending and using funds for items that could be considered campaign related.

Then, in 2006, The Washington Post identified credit card violations by then-county executive Jack Johnson and a few council members. In some cases, officials were late reimbursing — or failed to reimburse all together — the county for personal expenses they charged.

In 2013, Carletta Fellows resigned from the school board shortly after having her county-issued credit card revoked for reportedly using it on utility bills.

And just a few months ago, in October, the school board came under fire when the Post revealed board members’ use of board-issued cards for meals. Vice Chairwoman Carolyn M. Boston (Dist. 6), for example, charged a total of $190 in one day for a lunch and dinner. While the charges were allowed — credit card use is permitted for expenses related to board duties, to include working meals — the purchases understandably raised questions about spending responsibly. A state legislator has since made a proposal to ban giving credit cards to school board members.

Fortunately, the school board didn’t wait for this issue to drag out on a state stage. The board voted at its Jan. 22 meeting to change an amendment to ban the credit card use and plans to make a final vote on the decision Feb. 12.

“I think that doing this is the absolute right thing to do and I always have, regardless of media coverage. We don’t need [the cards], and the public has high expectations,” board Chairman Segun Eubanks said before the vote.

He’s right. It’s the right thing to do and it should have been done long ago. The County Council eliminated credit cards for elected officials shortly after the embarrassing revelations in 2011. It’s a shame the school board didn’t follow suit at the time, but it’s better late than never.

And it’s commendable that the board went a step further to limit the number of weekly meals for which board members could be reimbursed and placed price caps on the meals.

We applaud the school board for addressing this issue that has lingered for at least 15 years. Hopefully, officials will likewise keep a critical eye on reimbursements and other financial requests by officials to ensure the public’s high standards continue to be met.

>>> Read more 



Prince George’s school board approves credit card ban.


Prince George’s school board has the green light to cut up their credit cards after a unanimous Feb. 12 vote to adopt a reimbursement policy.

The new policy will take effect in April, said school board chairman Segun Eubanks.

The board decided to take action following of dollars in local meals on their board-issued credit cards.

Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville proposed House Bill 707 to the General Assembly that would take away the county-issued cards, but Washington said he would withdraw his legislation if the school board passed the ban themselves.

David Cahn, co-chair for the education watchdog “Citizens for an Elected Board,” commended the board for the move and said it was preferable for the board to ban the cards themselves.

“A lot of times, legislation like this is created to get the target of the legislation to do it voluntarily,” Cahn said.

The new policy also caps the amount board members can get reimbursed for local meals to $39 for dinner, and lesser amounts for breakfast and lunch, and limits the number of local work-related meals for which a board member may be reimbursed to two per week.

Board member Verjeana Jacobs (Dist. 5) motioned to amend the policy to allow board members to carry over unused amounts of their expense accounts to be donated to school-based programs in the following fiscal year, pending approval from the board.

Prior to Jacobs’ amendment, the revised policy stated that unspent funds could be donated to schools or school programs at the end of June, when schools are not in session, Jacobs said.

“So what happens is funds left over from this year will go over to next year, and that will give board members an opportunity to present to the board different activities or events or things that they feel are good for schools, and make recommendations for funds to go there,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs’ amendment was approved unanimously.

>>> Read more Gazette



PGCPS Board Members Cut Their Credit Cards


Prince George’s County School Board members are cutting up their taxpayer-funded credit cards because of what the I-Team found they were buying. Scott MacFarlane reports.

See the video here 

>>> See previous reports here



Md. General Assembly Considers Taking PGCPS School Board Credit Cards


Maryland state legislators will consider a bill to strip government-issued, taxpayer-funded credit cards from members of the Prince George’s County School Board.

The bill, already formally drafted and submitted, would take effect July 1, 2016. The legislation’s supporters referenced recent reports by the News-4 I-Team, which detailed controversial credit card expenses by board members, while lobbying on behalf of the bill.

The proposed legislation, authored by Prince George’s County State Delegate Alonzo Washington, would require school board members instead pay their future expenses upfront, then seek reimbursement through vouchers. The use of credit cards would be prohibited.

An October review of Prince George’s County School Board credit card expenses by the I-Team revealed some members of the board purchased dozens of meals at local restaurants with their cards, totaling several thousand dollars over the course of a year. Those meals included steak, seafood and desserts and were purchased at local restaurants within minutes of offices and members’ homes.

>>> Read more NBC4 Team


Expose corruption

Expose corruption


State delegate proposes bill calling for school board to ban credit cards.


Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22)

For the second year in a row, a delegate from Prince George’s County will propose a bill to ban the use of taxpayer-funded credit cards by the county’s Board of Education, and the legislation has the support of at least one board member.

“I think there’s some members who used their credit card in an appropriate manner,” said Board of Education member Edward Burroughs, who does not have a board-issued credit card. “I think there’s some members in the past who have not used it in an appropriate manner. Taxpayer dollars are so important it’s best for no one to have a card.”

Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22) said he proposed the bill last year for transparency and accountability reasons, and he decided to propose it again this year.

Earlier this year, The Sentinel reported the Board’s vice chair, Carolyn Boston, and school board member Verjeana Jacobs used their credit cards for the most meals of any board members between January 2013 and May 2014. Boston purchased 114 meals totaling more than $5,500 and Jacobs purchased 87 meals totaling more than $6,200, according to credit card statements and expense reports.

Boston declined to comment and Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

“Unless there’s a policy change within the school system this year, I plan on going full steam ahead,” Washington said. “A lot of my constituents are alarmed by the reports. They’d like to see a change happen based on reports that came out. They’re absolutely right.”

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said the school system conduct an internal review of its policy following reports by The Sentinel and other media outlets, but the school board does not have plans to ban credit cards completely. Details of the policy changes will not become public until January, Eubanks said, and the changes will mainly clarify certain things, like maximum daily meal allowances and frequency of meals.

Additionally, Eubanks also said the school board is not considering an external audit of the reimbursement policy because “there is no evidence that board members have misused the reimbursement policy with use of their credit cards.”

Read more >>> Prince George’s County Sentinel. 




Montgomery school board, critics at odds over $140,000 legal bill.



First there was public uproar about how members of Montgomery County’s Board of Education used their district-issued credit cards. Now comes fallout regarding the $140,000 in legal bills that piled up as the records for those credit cards went under review and investigation.

Board President Phil Kauffman (At Large) defended the legal costs in a commentary recently published by The Washington Post, arguing that hiring outside lawyers to examine members’ spending decisions was “the right thing to do” as the school board sought to examine its own actions and come up with new procedures.

“Objectivity was an important part of this process,” he wrote, saying that the board hired the Venable law firm for its experience handling public-integrity issues. The board asked Venable to review board expense records, provide a written report and recommend actions.

“This is standard operating procedure when an organization is reviewing its own practices, whether it’s a business, a sports league or a government agency,” Kauffman wrote.

But several Montgomery County Council members and a Montgomery watchdog group have challenged the need to involve outside lawyers and assailed the cost of the help.

“I just don’t think there is any way you can tie a ribbon on the fact that our school board spent $140,000 getting advice on how to stop wasting money and make it look good,” County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) said.

Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) said he found the hiring of the law firm wasteful and unnecessary. “The solution was obvious: to get rid of the credit cards and adopt policies that were reasonable,” he said.

This is a total scam by the the school board, which could have hired an independent accounting firm – even a Big 4 – trained in forensic auditing for no more than a third of that cost. And I was a partner in one in for 30 years, so I know how much it costs to audit a dozen credit cards and review the controls and policies over their use.

>>>Read more Washington Post.