Mont. Co. school board members’ credit card use called into question

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SILVER SPRING, Md. — Reading, writing and arithmetic have temporarily become
overshadowed by lobster tail, hotel room service and credit card misuse.

Credit card purchases by Montgomery County Board of Education members and their
staff have set off a new round of criticism and an effort to overhaul spending

There was the restaurant meal at Fagers Island during a conference in Ocean City.
The final tab, which included orders of the surf and turf, lobster tail and sea
bass, was $509.

In another eyebrow-raising charge, a round trip taxi fare to St. Marys County
cost $457. The board member, Judy Docca, cannot drive for health reasons, so she
takes taxis to meetings, ABC7

Other purchases have been called accidental, with school district credit cards
covering personal expenses.

One of those, by Board member Roland Ikheloa, was a $581.87 purchase at a tire
shop. He later repaid the school district.

Board member Chris Barclay told ABC7 his 14 unauthorized purchases with the school
credit card were accidents.

The newly-released documents reveal some lavish indulgences, even while some
teachers take it upon themselves to supply their classroom needs.

We hear from teachers who are spending hundreds of dollars on classroom supplies,
textbooks, props — whatever they might need to teach in their classroom, says
Janis Sartucci, an outspoken member of the Parents Coalition of Montgomery
County. And theyre being told that the budget is limited, so theyre not
reimbursed for these items.

Parents have also been asked occasionally to help with money and school supplies.

We dont see a respect for the public education dollars, she says.

Sartucci sees a pattern of accidental credit card use for personal expenses, the
latest of which came to light through a Public Information Act request.

The receipts released this week were from Board of Education staff members.

I dont think that most tax payers would think that the dollars that they are
mandated to spend on the public school system are going to fund lobster and room
service and upgrades in hotels and airfares, Sartucci says.

A board committee this week supported changes in spending practices, including the
elimination of hotel room service. Additionally, credit cards purchases would be
limited to out of town travel, the
Washington Post reported.

The recommendations will be heard before the full board later in the month.

Sartucci doesnt believe that is enough, however, citing a pattern of misuse.

She believes the only solution is to post expense accounts on a monthly basis.

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