Montgomery school official to reimburse $486 to system -- Gazette.Net



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A top Montgomery County Public Schools official said she will reimburse the school system for two bags costing about $486 that she purchased with a system-issued credit card.

Kimberly A. Statham — who was recently named the next deputy superintendent for school support and improvement — said in the statement provided Monday that the bags she bought in May 2013 were for work purposes.

“The purpose of the purchase was specifically to transport my work laptop, power cords, work files, and other work-related items to meetings as well as from work to my home where I continue working during evening hours,” she said in the statement.

Statham — currently the school system’s deputy superintendent of teaching, learning and programs — said in the statement she decided to pay back the money because “this expenditure has been questioned by some.”

Her decision comes amid scrutiny of expense records for Montgomery County school board members and other school officials.

The issue of school board members’ credit card usage arose after it came to light that school board member Christopher S. Barclay, who is also running for a Montgomery County Council seat, used his school system-issued credit card to make multiple personal purchases totaling nearly $1,500. Barclay had to reimburse for the school system for the charges.

An ad-hoc committee consisting of school board President Philip Kauffman, Vice President Patricia O’Neill and school board member Michael Durso has held two meetings so far to discuss the credit cards and reimbursable expenses for board members. The committee has developed a series of recommendations to pass on to the full school board, including one that would allow board members to use their cards only for expenses related to travel outside the county.

Dana Tofig, a county school system spokesman, said that senior staff’s past expenses also will be examined.

“Dr. [Superintendent Joshua P.] Starr has asked for a review of the expenses of senior staff as well as the policies and practices that govern the expenses of senior staff,” Tofig said in an email. “Based on the findings of that review, appropriate action will be taken.”

Tofig said he didn’t have an exact time line for the review, but that there is “a desire to do so quickly.”

Statham said in her statement that she thinks the review will help provide more clarity to staff.

According to school system expense reports, Statham entered the purchases of the two bags in a card transaction log and dated them May 15, 2013. The records show a receipt for the bag costing $244.17 but indicate a missing receipt for the bag costing $241.72.

Card holders are required to turn in itemized receipts for purchases, according to school system policy.

Records of Starr’s expenses from the last few years show that he used his credit card to pay for several upgrade charges for US Airways flights. The records do not include the reasons for the upgraded charges.

School system policy says the cards can be used for travel expenses.

According to the records, Starr put a $62 upgrade charge on his school system credit card on April 12, 2013. He made two flight upgrade charges on June 15, 2013, one costing $15 and another costing $49.

Addressing the April 2013 charge, Tofig said that sometimes Starr will ask for an exit row seat, especially on long flights, for the extra leg room because he is tall (about 6 feet, 5 inches). Some airlines charge for those seats, he said. The April flight was to a National School Boards Association conference in San Diego, he said.

Starr also marked in a transaction log that he charged a $19 upgrade fee to his credit card around April 30, 2013 for an Amtrak trip from New York to Washington, D.C.

According to a Sept. 17, 2013, confirmation letter from the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel in Ocean City included in the records, Starr’s card was used to book two nights in an “Oceanview Studio King” room for one adult at $175 a night.

Records show Starr stayed at the hotel while attending the 2013 Maryland Association of Boards of Education conference, and school system policy allows cards to be used for travel lodgings. The state association holds its conference meetings at the hotel.

That room type, however, ranks among the hotel’s more expensive options, according to hotel staff. Such a room costs about $30 more per night than the standard ocean-view room, hotel staff said. The hotel also has non-ocean-view rooms that cost less.

Tofig said that Starr’s assistant reserves a room for him, and that the conference or the hotel decides which room he will stay in.

“Dr. Starr did not request any specific room and we did not pay extra for his room,” he said in an email. “He paid the rate that other people at the conference pay to stay at the hotel.”

lpowers@gazette.net