A former central Ohio superintendent spent nearly $100,000 on personal travel and alcohol over a five-year period and must repay the money, a state investigation found.
Bart Anderson, the longtime superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, used the ESC credit card to pay for more than $450,000 in travel between 2007 and 2012, special state audit released today found. But more than $90,000 of that travel wasn't for business.
Anderson stayed in fine hotels - the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Fla., and the Waldorf Astoria in New York - and spent tens of thousands on meals and drinks.
The state auditor referred Anderson to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien for possible criminal charges and to the Ohio Ethics Commission.
Anderson resigned in February 2013, soon after the ESC discovered that he had redeemed for his personal use points accrued on the ESC credit card. A larger investigation of Anderson's spending was launched by the state soon after.
He traveled hundreds of times during his tenure. Some trips had been approved by his school board. But auditors found trips to 112 locations totaling nearly $92,000 had not been authorized by the board. They could not determine whether the trips were for a legitimate public purpose.
The audit also cites Anderson - and warns the ESC to tighten its controls - after auditors found Anderson's receipts had been altered. Auditors first examined the superintendent's handwritten receipts during a regular fiscal audit. Reviewed again during the special investigation, auditors found they'd been changed.
A spokeswoman for the ESC said that the board members won’t be commenting on the audit. Instead, she provided the board’s official audit response. In it, the board tells auditors that it has banned the use of credit cards and now requires employees who travel to pay for it first, then be reimbursed.
In addition, only certain employees have access to the ESC’s financial records. The superintendent is not one of those employees.
ESCs are county or regional centers that work directly with surrounding school districts. For example, school districts contract with the ESC to provide substitute teachers, special-education services and help pool resources when the districts band together to buy goods and services. ESCs are funded in part by the local school districts they serve, but also through state and federal sources.
By Jennifer Smith Richards - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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