After Controversies, Committee Recommends Montgomery Co. School Board Nix Credit Cards

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File photo of credit cards on a computer keyboard. (Credit: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of credit cards on a computer keyboard. (Credit: DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)

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LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — After a few recent controversies surrounding the use of credit cards by Montgomery County school board members, an ad hoc committee has recommended eliminating the use of cards and switching to per diem allowances, instead.

The recommendations will go before the board Monday for consideration.

The committee was formed after board member Christopher Barclay charged more than $1,500 worth of personal items on his school system credit card, The Gazette reports.

In accordance with a request from the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, the school board released expense records for other school board staff members, as well.

They showed that Ikhide Roland Ikheloa, the board’s chief of staff, had used his school system credit card to pay for several hundred dollars worth of personal items at Mr. Tire, Target, CVS and other stores. A school spokeswoman told The Gazette those purchases were made accidentally and that Ikheloa “quickly rectified the situation.”

The reports also showed that a $509 dinner at an Ocean City conference, which included lobster and prime rib dishes, was paid for by board members using their school system cards.

“The Board of Education takes its responsibility seriously and we want to make sure that we are being good stewards of public dollars,” said Board of Education President Phil Kauffman in a statement released Tuesday.

“Our review process has shown that we clearly need to improve the review and approval process of Board member expenses. I think our recommendations today will go a long way in ensuring that we have good processes in place to manage expenses.”

The committee’s full list of recommendations are as follows:

1. Removal of Credit Card Authorization. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that Board members not have credit cards, even for the purposes of authorized travel outside of Montgomery County. Board administrative staff may continue to use purchase cards for authorized purchases.

2. Per Diem on Authorized Travel. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends providing Board members a per diem for nonlocal travel. In some cases, the per diem may be given to Board members in advance of travel in an amount not to exceed the per diem allowed for the trip.

3. Home Office. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that Board Members still be provided with the necessary equipment and supplies to maintain home offices, but that the Board no longer grant reimbursements for home office internet service.

4. Development of List of Pre-approved Events/Meetings for Board Members. The Ad Hoc Committee developed a recommended list of conferences, events and meetings that Board members would be authorized to attend or travel to for 2014-2015.

5. Semiannual Reports. The Ad Hoc Committee recommends that the Board’s Fiscal Management Committee review, on a semiannual basis, summary reports on the status of expenditures by Board members and the Board office. The full Board will receive the reports in their regular Board packets as items of information.

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