School board decision to nix charge accounts was long overdue
PGCPS Sasscer – System HQ
Elected officials’ use of credit cards has been like bad plumbing: every time Prince Georgians thought the problem was fixed, another leak seemed to pop up.
Many remember the audit of the Prince George’s County school board in 2000, when lax accounting and widespread abuse of expense accounts were revealed. Questions surfaced about some board members charging items that did not appear to be related to their board duties, overspending and using funds for items that could be considered campaign related.
Then, in 2006, The Washington Post identified credit card violations by then-county executive Jack Johnson and a few council members. In some cases, officials were late reimbursing — or failed to reimburse all together — the county for personal expenses they charged.
In 2013, Carletta Fellows resigned from the school board shortly after having her county-issued credit card revoked for reportedly using it on utility bills.
And just a few months ago, in October, the school board came under fire when the Post revealed board members’ use of board-issued cards for meals. Vice Chairwoman Carolyn M. Boston (Dist. 6), for example, charged a total of $190 in one day for a lunch and dinner. While the charges were allowed — credit card use is permitted for expenses related to board duties, to include working meals — the purchases understandably raised questions about spending responsibly. A state legislator has since made a proposal to ban giving credit cards to school board members.
Fortunately, the school board didn’t wait for this issue to drag out on a state stage. The board voted at its Jan. 22 meeting to change an amendment to ban the credit card use and plans to make a final vote on the decision Feb. 12.
“I think that doing this is the absolute right thing to do and I always have, regardless of media coverage. We don’t need [the cards], and the public has high expectations,” board Chairman Segun Eubanks said before the vote.
He’s right. It’s the right thing to do and it should have been done long ago. The County Council eliminated credit cards for elected officials shortly after the embarrassing revelations in 2011. It’s a shame the school board didn’t follow suit at the time, but it’s better late than never.
And it’s commendable that the board went a step further to limit the number of weekly meals for which board members could be reimbursed and placed price caps on the meals.
We applaud the school board for addressing this issue that has lingered for at least 15 years. Hopefully, officials will likewise keep a critical eye on reimbursements and other financial requests by officials to ensure the public’s high standards continue to be met.