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 […]
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.”
“I wouldn’t spend extra money on an audit unless there’s clear evidence of misuse,” Eubanks said.
The school board has a reimbursement policy, not a credit card policy, Eubanks said.
“The state law designated the Board of Education, given public service, shouldn’t be paying for [board related] expenses out of our pocket. The question is if the use of the credit card is the right avenue to be reimbursed. We’ll be making a final decision about that in January,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks said he does not use a board-issued credit card.
Board members may spend a maximum of $7,000 per fiscal year, according to state law, for expenses related to board business. The policy does not allow the school system to reimburse board members for personal uses. The board chair approves expenses first, followed by the school system’s Office of Internal Audit.
Washington said the school board members of Montgomery County Public Schools decided to stop using county-issued credit cards after similar reports came out scrutinizing the practice. Montgomery school board members agreed to stop using their school district issued credit cards in June of this year. One school board member, Christopher Barclay, used the card for personal expenses, which he later paid back.
“It’s about time we add change as well,” Washington said.