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Washington County spending scandal

A state audit of the Washington County Schools shows misspending by the former superintendent and questionable use of funds by him as well as Board of Education members and administrative employees.

The key findings of the report state that the former superintendent “misspent $15,800 of federal funds on entertainment,” and he, along with others spent $134,000 without proper approval, “a documented business purpose, or expenditure receipts.”

The Office of the State Auditor started looking into the school system after receiving a tip about the former superintendent’s spending practices, according to the report.

“During the investigation of the initial allegation, concerns about other expenditures and violations of School policies were identified,” the report states.

The report goes into detail on how the funds were used. The $15,800 misspent dollars by the former superintendent went to things such as a bounce house ($9,025) and a video game trailer ($600).

The report questioned an additional $94,000 (approximately) spent by the former superintendent for travel, food, and “merchandise.”

“…the School was unable to determine that the $94,201 spent on travel, meals, and merchandise:

  • Actually occurred; i.e., did the former Superintendent actually incur an expense?
  • Was properly valued; i.e., was payment made in the amount incurred by the former Superintendent?
  • Was a School obligation; i.e., was the former Superintendent authorized to incur the expense and was the expense for a bona fide School purpose?”

The report asks the same questions of about $40,000 in spending by the Board and administrative employees, and states:

“The Board and administrative employees spent $39,929 on hotel accommodations and airline tickets for travel that included eight out-of-state destinations and 17 in-state destinations. The Board and administrative employees rarely provided a documented business purpose, were regularly reimbursed above Washington County Schools’ (School) per diem rates, and infrequently submitted itemized receipts. The majority of expenditures had no evidence of prior written authorization.” notes that Superintendent Joe Davis — not named in the report — headed the district during the period covered by the investigation. WRAL goes on to say that he resigned from the district last June and is now the superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri.

WRAL contacted the district in Missouri and received the following response from a spokesperson.

“The Ferguson-Florissant School District Board of Education and Superintendent Davis are aware of the North Carolina audit and will be meeting in the near future to discuss it. Dr. Davis followed all the board policies while superintendent in Washington County Schools and stands by that fact.”

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.