Former Montgomery Co. school administrator sentenced for ‘one of the worst financial crimes’

The former director of the Montgomery County Public Schools Department of Transportation has been sentenced to three years of supervised probation and 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to misconduct in office, connected to the misuse of MCPS-issued “purchasing cards” within his department.

Todd Watkins, 56, entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge in June.

Watkins, who oversaw the MCPS Department of Transportation’s purchase of electric school buses, had worked with the contractor American Truck & Bus to create an “off-the-books” account, according to court records.

Watkins failed to “properly manage the contract for the purchases of school buses and the use of purchasing cards” in his department, according to prosecutors. Watkins was placed on leave in 2021 and later resigned.

Some of the MCPS employees in the transportation department had access to the cards, referred to as “P-Cards” in an inspector general’s report, that allowed them to buy items, excluding furniture or equipment.

Charles Ewald, 37, the assistant director of the transportation department at MCPS, was among those who had access to the cards.

Watkins signed off on a number of purchases by Ewald that violated school policies on purchase limits.

In December 2022, the Montgomery County Inspector General’s Office found that Watkins and Ewald “regularly violated P-Card policies.”

Ewald was eventually charged with stealing more than $324,000 over a period of five years by taking advantage of the “off-the-books” system, and was sentenced to five years in prison plus five years of supervised probation.

When Ewald was sentenced, State’s Attorney John McCarthy issued a statement calling Ewald’s action “one of the worst financial crimes to ever victimize Montgomery County Public Schools.”

Ewald paid $250,000 in restitution and an additional $74,000 will be due once his probation is completed.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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