Montgomery meetings on credit card practices now open

Montgomery County school board committee meetings that are expected to focus on the board’s credit-card practices and expense-reporting procedures will now be mostly open to the public.

Phil Kauffman, president of the Board of Education, said in an interview that a meeting scheduled for Thursday will include a 30-minute closed session for legal advice and then become an open meeting at 11:30 a.m.

Earlier, Kauffman (At Large) had said Thursday’s committee meeting and some others would be closed to the public, a move that sparked sharp community criticism.

Kauffman created the committee after a parents’ watchdog group called attention to board members’ expense reports. He said the documents reflected different approaches to credit-card use by board members and cited a need for a clear, uniform set of practices.

The records showed that Christopher S. Barclay (District 4) had unauthorized charges — including travel and restaurant expenses — on his school system credit card, expenses he later reimbursed. Three charges were repaid nine to 12 months later.

Barclay, a candidate for County Council, has expressed regrets. He called the experience “a teaching moment” and said he had every intention of repaying the district.

Kauffman said the committee will examine the board’s processes for monitoring expenses and its rules about what kinds of expenses are reimbursable. The committee is made up of Kauffman, Vice President Patricia O’Neill (District 3) and Michael A. Durso (District 5).

Schools officials have posted an agenda for the meeting, which includes a discussion of expenditures, a review of policies in other jurisdictions and recommendations for changing guidelines.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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