The following is a press release from Common Cause MD:
Common Cause Maryland calls for greater oversight of School Board expenditures
(Annapolis) – With two breaking stories in one week regarding expenditures by School Board members across Maryland, Common Cause Maryland calls for greater oversight and clearer policies by school boards regarding the use of taxpayer funds.
In Montgomery County, a Public Information Act discovered that school board member Chris Barclay made personal charges to the county-funded credit card. The documents also revealed meal expenses that did not follow school board procedures for authorization. In Wicomico County, state auditors found school board members purchased gift cards using county credit cards, as well as several purchases made at a produce market owned by a school board member, raising questions of conflict of interest.
“These discoveries raise questions about both the strength of expenditure policies and the implementation of those policies,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “School boards have to make the best use of very limited dollars. Lunches, gift cards, and personal charges on the county card hurt public trust and hurt the students that the board is supposed to serve.”
Common Cause calls on county School Boards to evaluate their spending policies and make sure they provide clear oversight for member expenditures and reimbursements. School boards should consider revoking credit cards and moving to a reimbursement system, as many county governments (including Montgomery County) have done.
Common Cause Maryland also noted the importance of the public information act in bringing these stories to light.
“Public access to government expenditures is a fundamental tool to ensure that officials are held to the highest standards. The Montgomery County story is a clear example of the importance of a well-functioning public information act that gives the public access to the information they need.”
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