SBI investigation into school system complete [The Star, Shelby, N.C.]
(Star (Shelby, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 20--It was two years ago that Cleveland County Schools became the focus of an investigation by the State Auditor's Office.
The analysis found thousands of school system dollars were used for personal gain. The maintenance department manager resigned in the wake of the investigation and money was reimbursed.
A separate investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, which also began two years ago, regarding credit card usage within the school system is now complete. But its findings have not yet been made public.
"I have the report to review. As it is an investigation file, it is not open to inspection," District Attorney Rick Shaffer wrote in an email to The Star this week.
Shaffer told The Star last year that the report was expected to be complete by December 2012.
Why the controversy?
In 2012, The Star obtained 99,000 pages of documents, in digital form, from the school system that detailed credit card purchases from 2007 and 2012.
At one point, more than 200 school credit cards were in circulation within the school system.
The credit card -- or P-card -- receipts detail every aspect of the school system -- from technology (iPads) and maintenance (heating units) to training (out-of-town and out-of-state conferences) and community outreach programs.
In 2010 alone, the school system hosted roughly a dozen functions at the Cleveland Country Club, at a price tag of $245 to $1,417 apiece.Walmart was the go-to spot to purchase coffee, snacks and Nintendo Wii games. Dozens of receipts, totaling thousands of dollars, detail purchases for parent functions, PE classes and breakroom supplies purchased at Walmart. One receipt details nearly $1,700 spent on Wii games and accessories. Another lists a Wii console purchased for a Kings Mountain Middle School physical education class.
Additionally, the school system had almost weekly purchases at local fast food restaurants and grocery stores, ranging from a few biscuits to a $400 tab at the now-closed Cup & Saucer Room restaurant in Kings Mountain.
What is the policy?
Policy calls for the employee to turn in an itemized credit card receipt, noting why the purchase was made. A small percentage of the documents obtained by The Star include the reason for the purchase.Some receipts were reported missing. The employee instead turned in a handwritten note explaining the purchase and the amount.Once a credit card receipt is in hand, Boyles said, it gets manager approval, then is sent to the business and finance offices. An electronic copy is made in PDF format for records.
"There may be two to three sets of eyes that see that (receipt)," Superintendent Bruce Boyles previous told The Star .
Changes in procedure
Since the investigation began, Cleveland County Schools has altered some of their procedures.
The school system reduced the number of P-cards to 94, with 49 assigned to schools .
"We have done a lot of things since the initial investigation," Boyles said. "We put in place a new credit card system that helps us monitor spending more carefully."
New policies have also been put in place that help govern the spending and what money could be spent on, he said.
"We have are more careful about spending guidelines," he said. "We are making sure people follow those in all departments and all areas."
(c)2013 The Star (Shelby, N.C.)
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