Former School Director of Transportation Pleads Guilty to Misconduct in Office

Todd Watkins, the former Montgomery County Public Schools Department of Transportation director, pled guilty Friday to taking advantage of his position as a public official and stealing funds.

Watkins, 56, simply answered yes or no to all questions put forth to him by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael McAuliff and didn’t make any statements. He acknowledged in court that he freely pled guilty and accepted the plea deal.

He was released on his own recognizance and will be sentenced Sept. 11. He faces probation to six months for pleading guilty to one count of misconduct.

According to court records, Watkins failed to properly manage the contract for school bus purchases and the use of purchasing cards, enabling Assistant Director of MCPS Department of Transportation Charles Ewald to steal more than $320,000.

“It’s an unusual crime,” McAuliff said during the 30-minute proceedings.

The offenses date back to 2016 and continued into 2021. Watkins, whose family attended the court proceedings, was fired by MCPS in February of 2021.

Ewald pled guilty May 18 to a felony theft scheme and misconduct in office. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

According to an audit by The Office of Legislative Audits, Department of Legislative Services, MCPS questioned some purchases during its normal review of credit card activity. An internal audit unit by the school district found “questionable purchases,” including gift cards, furniture, and other purchases that were shipped to an employee’s home.

“These convictions are the result of a thorough investigation on the part of the Montgomery County Police Department. We thank the detectives for their diligent work in this matter after being alerted to the possibility of fraudulent activity by Montgomery County Public Schools. We will provide further comment in open court at the time of sentencing in September,” said State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

According to an internal audit, MCPS found an account maintained by a transportation vendor, whose name was redacted from the audit. That account was not part of MCPS’ Office of Finance and, therefore, not monitored by MCPS.

After that internal audit was complete, MCPS reported its results to the Montgomery County Police Department. At the same time, they also hired an accounting and advisory firm in December 2021 to conduct an independent investigation of transactions from July 2016 through January 2022

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