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Board Of Ed Committee Agrees To Tighten Credit Card Rules

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 6/13/2014, 9:05am  ET

MCPSAfter weeks of bad press about its members’ use of district-issued credit cards, a Board of Education Committee on Thursday made public a set of recommendations for tightening the Board’s expense and reimbursement rules.

Board President Phil Kauffman, Vice President Patricia O’Neill and Board member Michael Durso — the Board’s Fiscal Management Committee — will recommend new guidelines including no county-funded hotel stays within 50 miles of MCPS headquarters in Rockville.

Board member Chris Barclay, who’s also running for County Council, repaid the school system more than $1,900 to cover 16 unauthorized charges over five years. A new batch of records released by the school system last week showed Barclay and Board member Rebecca Smondrowski charged for hotel stays in D.C. during a conference, despite living within easy driving distance.

Other recommendations from the committee include:

– Allowing Board of Education members to use district-issued credit cards only for the purpose of authorized out-of-county travel, such as conferences and workshops. Eligible expenses incurred while conducting Board business locally would be paid by the Board member and then reimbursed, as long as proper documentation is provided;

– Requiring preapproval for costs associated with Board members’ attendance at any out-of-county conferences, workshops, and meetings;

– Requiring preapproval for tickets to attend local events;

– No longer allowing Board members to pay for the meals of other people, such as elected leaders, staff, or constituents;

– Limiting the circumstances in which Board members can seek reimbursements for their own meals, and setting monetary caps on those meals that are aligned with State of Maryland limits;

– Requiring preapproval for out-of-county mileage reimbursement;

– Fully enforcing and enhancing existing requirements that detailed receipts and information be provided regarding expenses before reimbursement is made;

– Requiring quarterly reports on Board member expenditures and an annual review by an external auditor; and

– Requiring annual training for Board members on expenditure guidelines.

The credit card charges that involve paying for lunches or other meals with county elected officials have drawn particular attention from the Parents’ Coalition, a watchdog group that first sought out the Board’s credit card records.

According to the MCPS press release on the recommendations, the committee asked staff to propose language to put into the Board of Education Handbook to clarify its expense procedures. The committee will likely have another meeting before submitting its recommendations to the full Board of Education in July.