State prosecutor: No ‘criminal misconduct’ in use of Montgomery school board credit cards -- Gazette.Net


The Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor closed its investigation into Montgomery County school board members’ use of school system credit cards after the office subpoenaed board expense records in June.

“Investigators have reviewed all the documentation submitted, to include credit card usage by the School Board, its staff and the County Schools’ Superintendent and his Deputies, and have concluded that the Board’s credit card use does not rise to the level of criminal misconduct,” said a Monday letter from State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt to Karl Racine, an attorney working with the school system.

In a June 10 subpoena, the state prosecutor’s office asked for documents related to “Montgomery County Board of Education issued credit cards,” including account statements, billing statements, receipts, invoices and reimbursement records.

The school board voted July 28 to eliminate their use of credit cards. The board also approved a number of other changes to the board’s expense guidelines and procedures.

The changes had been recommended by an ad hoc committee comprising board President Philip Kauffman, Vice President Patricia O’Neill and member Michael Durso.

The school system had issued board members the cards to use for business-related expenses.

The Monday letter says the state prosecutor office had “taken note” of an independent review attorneys had done of board members’ and board staff’s credit card use and expense reimbursements.

Attorneys from Venable LLP, including Racine, conducted an independent review that found multiple weaknesses. Among other points, Racine said at the ad hoc committee’s July 22 meeting that their investigation found the previous guidelines and practices to be “inconsistent and ambiguous.”

He also said that, based on the review findings, board members did not intentionally use school board money for personal reasons.

James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor’s office, said in June that his office received an allegation related to the board’s expenses.

O’Neill said on Tuesday that, while she had been surprised by the office’s subpoena, she was not surprised by its decision to end its investigation.

She noted the school system’s request for outside counsel’s review, the recent changes the board approved and the system’s compliance with the state prosecutor’s office investigation.

“We’re relieved that this chapter is closed,” she said. “We’re moving forward.”