I am going to kick off my analysis of the newly-released Fox C-6 credit card statements by looking at travel-related charges. I will start with the trip to Nashville in February 2014, apparently for the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) annual National Conference on Education. The conference ran from Feb. 13-15, and superintendent Dianne Critchlow and assistant superintendents Dan Baker, Todd Scott, and Andy Arbeitman attended from Fox. This is despite the fact that the conference is “designed exclusively for school superintendents” (though they seem to welcome assistants and others). How many people should the district send to this conference at $775 per person for the event plus $219 per night for the hotel? Critchlow rolled into Nashville on the 11th, two days early (p. 14 Visa bill). Maybe she attended the pre-conference workshop on the afternoon of the 12th? The hotel bills for the conference are on page 48 of the Discover bill.
It looks like the gang had some fun in Nashville. Critchlow spent $40 at Bailey’s Pub, $30 at the Swingin’ Doors Saloon, and $62 at the hotel bar (p. 14 Visa; she also hit the gift shop). Arbeitman spent $23 at the hotel bar (p. 3 Visa). Baker spent $94 at the Hilton Sports Grille, $53 at the hotel bar, and $32 and Honky Tonk Central (p. 8 Visa). Scott spend $63 at Robert’s Western World and $67 at Piranha’s (p. 30 Visa). Two breakfasts and two lunches were included as part of the conference fee. So perhaps they had their dinners at bar and grill type places and paid for each other’s meals some nights (which would make filing expense reports difficult). How many drinks were consumed with dinner? We’d have to see the receipts. District policy (p. 43) says:
It is the policy of the Board to pay reasonable travel expenses for those who travel on District business and whose trip has been approved in advance by the Superintendent/designee. These expenses include registration, transportation, meals, lodging, tolls, and parking charges. Expenses are reimbursed only when properly accounted for by an individual and approved by the Superintendent/designee.
Was this done? There’s no smoking gun on this trip, to me, just questions about how many administrators need to go to a conference and what limits exist on meal expenditures.
But let’s move on to the Lake of the Ozarks. There were a number of trips taken to there. I’m not sure what kind of educational events take place there, but they seem to be frequent. Let’s review:
One Jerome Kwiatkowski (I can’t find a record of him at the district) was named on a number of charges on the district’s Discover card. It appears that he is/was responsible for booking flights and hotel rooms for others. But in the cases of restaurants, one has to assume that he was present for those expenditures. Anyway, Kwiatkowski was apparently at the Lake of the Ozarks (LATO) in July 2013 (p. 2 Discover), staying at Camden on the Lake and dining at several establishments, including H. Toad’s. It looks like he paid for five rooms.
Later that month, Todd Scott was at LATO (p. 29 Visa), staying at Lodge of the 4 Seasons. He returned there two months later, staying at Camden. In March 2014, he was back. This time, Kwiatkowski paid for a number of rooms and/or nights, perhaps 6-7.
Arbeitman was in LATO in October 2013, making a charge at Wobbly Boots BBQ (p. 3 Visa). At the same time, Kwiatkowski paid for approximately two rooms at Lodge of the 4 Seasons and a number of meals (at this same time though, a $2,000 purchase was made on his card for pizza in Imperial) (p. 22 Discover). I’m thinking either that Arbeitman actually pays for his own meals (and presumably files for reimbursement), or he mooches off of other administrators (or should I say the taxpayers) – not sure which it would be. Someone named Sharon Moore also had charges at Tan Tara Resort in LATO in mid-October (p. 1 Visa), but I see no further charges related to that trip.
Former CFO Mark McCutchen went to LATO in November 2013 for about three days, but there’s no associated hotel stay that I see. In April 2014, McCutchen and Arbeitman were back in town, although I’m not sure their visits overlapped. McCutchen had charges at Camden on the Lake (for $515!) on the 20th and 21st (p. 23 Visa). Arbeitman was at the Westin in New Orleans on the 21st, but in LATO two days later.
McCutchen, it should be noted, made a sudden, quiet departure from the district. As reported by Fox C-6 Watchdogs
, new CFO John Brazeal was hired at the May 20 board meeting, but it was not until the next day, when the board packet was updated, that it was revealed that McCutchen was leaving. He was set to retire June 30, which is not very much notice for a senior administrator. But board president John Laughlin indicated at the June 30 board meeting basically that McCutchen took a bunch of leave and ditched the district early, so Fox had no CFO when the upcoming year’s bleak budget picture was becoming clear. Did McCutchen anticipate that these credit card charges would come out, and thus reach for the golden parachute? Rich Simpson from the Watchdogs blog made his first Sunshine request for the credit card statements in March 2014.
There was a trip to DC in October 2013. Kwiatkowski booked eight rooms at the Renaissance (p. 29 Discover). Critchlow and Crutchley were among the attendees. I find it interesting, for Critchlow’s Nashville and DC trips, that she didn’t report to the school board about them at the meetings before or after the trips. Something like, hey, I went to this conference, it was great, this is what I learned, would seem to be appropriate. But no such reports occurred, according to meeting minutes
There are a number of airline ticket purchases on the various cards, but it is not possible without other information to determine where the flights went and who took them (although in some cases people booked their own tickets). On many of Kwiatkowski’s Southwest reservations, there are extra $15 charges. These I presume are the fees for early check-in, which allows you to get on the plane before everyone else. This seems like an unnecessary perk for our public servants.
Sure, it’s possible that administrators reimbursed the district for some of these expenses, or if they are somehow justified that proper approval procedures were followed. We know that district credit card policies
have not been followed as they pertain to the types of purchases that are allowed.
In a future post I hope to examine meal charges on the district credit cards. Also please note that there is a board meeting tonight at 7 pm at which the board will vote on a resolution to request a state audit. Be there.