Legal Fees for School Board Credit Card Review to Total $140,000

Montgomery County taxpayers will likely spend about $140,000 in legal fees for the the review of what the county’s school board members put on their county-issued credit cards.

The school board recently was presented a June legal fees reported that shows $112,000 was spent in that month on the credit card issue. MCPS Spokesman Dana Tofig told MyMCMedia recently that the total bill is expected to be about $140,000 for the review.

The school system hired Venable LLP to audit the books of the board members to determine if the cards were being used inappropriately. While the firm did not find any instances of abuse, it did suggest the cards no longer be used by the members.

The Venable bill for June 2014 totaled $112,569, all of which was related to the review of expense reimbursements, according to a MCPS legal fees report.

Board member Judy Docca said the amount of money put on the cards that was under question was $1,500.

“I just think it’s an awful lot of notoriety around it,” Docca told MyMCMedia Tuesday.

Parents’ Coalition Janice Sartucci said her organization gave the board good advice for free.

“The coalition response was to cut up cards which is what they got for $140,000,” Sartucci said, adding that cheaper law firms could be used in the review.

The Venable law firm conducted the outside review of the expenses and the Board practices and guidelines regarding the usage of county-issued credit cards. The report of Venable attorney Karl Racine found that there were weaknesses and ambiguity in the current processes that needed to be corrected and recommended that Board members no longer be issued district-funded credit cards. However, the review “did not uncover evidence of intentional action taken to improperly use the credit cards for personal expenses.”

The Board approved sweeping changes to the processes and guidelines that govern the payment of expenses that Board members incur as a part of their work. Among the changes, Board members will no longer use district-funded credit cards; will receive a per diem allowance when attending professional conferences; and will employ a new process for determining public events, conferences, and meetings that Board members can attend at the district’s expense. 

The Venable report can be read here.

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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.


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