BOE pays law firm $140k to advise them in misuse of funds

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BOE pays law firm $140k to advise them in misuse of funds

Gil Jacobson

Gil Jacobson

Gil Jacobson

BOE members used taxpayer-funded credit cards for recreational purposes.

By Gil Jacobson, News Editor

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MCPS paid D.C. law firm Venable, LLP $140,000 between May and August of this year to advise and defend the Board of Education (BOE) in an incident of recent credit card misuse.

According to a September WJLA.com article, an ABC7 Watchdog Investigation revealed Board members using taxpayer-funded credit cards for recreational purposes, including meals, lavish hotels and valet parking.  MCPS then created a special committee to explore the situation and come up with a plausible solution, eventually hiring Venable.

“The Office of the State Prosecutor found there was no criminal action,” said Dana Tofig, MCPS Director of Public Information and Web Services.

The misuse of funds has resulted in new spending procedures being put in place for the Board, including no longer receiving taxpayer-funded credit cards from MCPS, no longer being reimbursed for meals they buy for others, and being required to receive approval prior to traveling outside of Montgomery County.

“The Board unanimously approved sweeping changes to Board expense procedures and protocols,” Tofig said.

Following the scandal, the BOE’s expense account has the same amount of taxpayer money as it did before the scandal.

The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, a Montgomery County parents organization committed to bettering MCPS performance, is disappointed in the findings because of how the BOE spent taxpayer money.

“The Parents’ Coalition advocates for every education dollar to be spent on the actual education of public school children,” said Janis Sartucci, a Parents’ Coalition member.

Assistant Principal John Taylor believes this misuse of funds does not have any real implications for CHS.

“We have a new business manager [Lisa Wellek] and she has been making sure that everyone has been following all of those [MCPS] protocols and procedures,” Taylor said.  “She’s done a really good job of preventing us from a situation like this.  While this may be a hassle for club sponsors, I think they’re pretty happy as a whole that we’re not going to mess this up.”

In terms of MCPS’ reputation, Tofig believes that the incident has not negatively impacted the Maryland State Government’s view of MCPS.

“I think the state of Maryland greatly values the contributions that MCPS makes to education in the state,” Tofig said.