BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) — The Beaufort County School System released a statement today in regards to the questionable charges a Beaufort County resident found.
“Our internal P-card controls are subject to two separate independent audits each year, and we haven’t had any negative findings that I’m aware of. We do occasionally have fraudulent charges made by people who aren’t school district employees, and in every case, those dollars are reimbursed in full by our credit card company. We also report every transaction on line, and if anyone has a question about a specific charge, we invite them to contact us.”
The school system also addressed three of the charges specifically.
- New York Mets: A field trip by the JROTC unit at Beaufort High School when the unit’s color guard presented the colors at a Mets game, which we reported publicly some time ago on district social media. This money came from student activity funds, which are dollars generated by individual schools through fund-raising drives, booster clubs, PTOs, field trip participation fees, gate receipts from athletics events, etc.
- Yeti Coolers: Small tumblers (mugs, basically) purchased as “welcome gifts” for new teachers. The tumblers were purchased with funds from a teacher recruitment grant that the district won.
- Medieval Times: Student field trips paid for with student activity funds, which again are dollars generated by individual schools that support, among things, student field trips. FYI, here’s a link to the Medieval Times Teacher’s Guide and downloadable lesson plans: http://www.medievaltimes.com/teachers-students/teachers-guide.html
Click here to watch the full video statement from Superintendent Moss.
School Spokesperson Jim Foster says a rigorous system of controls is in place for the Beaufort County school system to stop any potential fraud involving p-cards.
“We have not located a single incidence where an employee has used their card for fraud or misappropriation. That has not happened,” explained Beaufort School Superintendent Jeff Moss.
Many of the charges are fraudulent, including the ones at Victoria Secret. They have the reimbursements to prove it.
“Do fraudulent charges appear on our card statement, yes they do. Just like some of you have had some of the same fraudulent charges,” explained Moss. “But no employee used that to make that purchase. Its someone out there that has actually gathering those numbers.”
Gaylord Hotel and Resort charges were all hotel bills for a national conference of middle and high school athletics directors (NIAAA) that our middle and high school Athletic Directors attended.
Swarovski Crystals were gifts that a school purchased for its retiring employees, but the money came from staff donations that were routed into school activity funds. Not tax dollars, in other words. Student activity funds are generated by individual schools through fund-raising drives, booster clubs, PTOs, field trip participation fees, donations, gate receipts from athletics events, etc.
“Beaufort High School takes their faculty for their Christmas celebration to Dataw Island, they have connections with residents that live in Dataw and Dataw is a wonderful supporter of ours. So when you see a purchase for Dataw you see its a Christmas celebration for class,” explained Moss.
The charges for Medieval Times and trips to Myrtle Beach were field trips for students connected to class work/
That “Christopher Square” PayPal charges for about $1,300. Those were for a business selling student T-shirts that a high school purchased for its graduating seniors and special student events. Again, not tax dollars but student activity funds generated by the school through the means listed above. The way it works is that the school generates funds that go into its student activity account, and when the P-Card is used for student activity purposes, the funds to pay the P-Card bill come are pulled from that specific funding source.
“So the last flurry of emails that had quite a few charges on those with questionable remarks,’ says Moss. “All of those are associated to students and teachers and activities that the school, the parents and the school activity team vote on and agree to.”
The district also believes in the P-Card because of the cash back bonuses as well. The school system gets cash rebates from these P-card purchases, more than $300,000 last year alone.
Beaufort County Councilman Rick Caporale posted this on Facebook:
“So, finally, it appears that our BCSD Superintendent intends to revamp at least some of the policies and procedures and reporting parameters related to P-Card purchases. Good. Too bad the BoE leadership didn’t mandate it instead of behaving as if they work for the Superintendent. (What is it with our locally elected boards? Good grief.) So now we’ll have to wait and see what changes. One of the promised changes is the Transparency Reports will list all purchases under $100.00 — which is probably where some of the suspected abuse (… if there was any …) was buried. Of course, rebooting the entire process at this point also means that past abuses, most likely, will be forgiven and forgotten. It’s a second chance for everyone to get it right. Frankly, we knew we’d never get the kind of audit some of us wanted, so we’ll have to settle for this. We also ought to remember the changes were sparked by the vigilance and persistence of a private citizen, not by the leadership of the BoE and not by the Superintendent.”
BEAUFORT, S.C. — Tens of thousands of dollars in questionable charges all on Beaufort County taxpayers bill.
And they were apparently made by the County School System, found by someone who lives in Beaufort County.
Now one Beaufort County Councilman wants to know where the money went.
“I think the one that caught my eye was the email that had the charges from Victoria’s Secret,” said Rick Caporale, Beaufort County Councilman. “I said wait a minute, what could that possibly be about?”
What Councilman Rick Caporale talking about is thousands of dollars spent on school system issued credit cards. He was alerted by Fran Bisi, a Beaufort County woman who started asking questions.
She found money spent among other places, at Dataw Golf Club, at Yeti Coolers, Swarovski Crystals, and almost $6000 at Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.
Not to mention according to Caporale, almost $30,000 “a month” on Amazon.
All on P-card or purchasing cards given to school leaders.
There are about 50 of the cards out there, mostly to principals and vice principals for school use.
“For me as a county council member since we do fund their budget my concern is are they really looking into these charges, are they managing the use of the card, can they assure us they are getting the credits for all the fraudulent charges? Can they assure us that abuse is being held to a minimum.”
Caporale says he’s been told some of those charges were fraudulent, including the ones at Victoria’s Secret, but that’s not all he’s hearing.
“What do you do with those fraudulent charges, fraudulent from inside or outside, was it hacked, someone hijacking the charged charge or someone working from inside?”
“We’ve had three different explanations so far of how many fraudulent charges there are.
“It was one a week and then it changed well we get one inquiry from the bank, a fraud alert like we do on my own charge card,” explains Caporale. “Those explanations were given to me by Dr Moss or their CFO.”
“Troubling you aren’t getting any answers?”
“Always. the problem is never the question the problem is the people who don’t give you the answer. the guy who’s asking or the woman who’s asking is never the problem its always the person who’s reluctant to give the answer.”
“Obviously if you and I work for the same company and I go and buy an expensive piece of clothing on the company charge card,” explains Caporale. “That is theft, that is a crime and ought to be treated that way.”
Three different Beaufort County Schoolboard members asked to have this issue placed on Tuesday night’s meeting agenda, but it was “not” on the list as of 6 pm.
The topic will be brought up at the Finance Committee meeting in mid-August.