Prince George’s delegate proposes bill that would strip BOE of credit cards

Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s) is seeking reelection. Washington is a freshman delegate who was appointed to his seat. He is campaigning to remain in his position. This version has been updated.

A state bill that would prohibit Prince George’s County Board of Education from issuing credit cards to its members is being proposed by a freshman delegate.

The proposal comes months after the board stripped former school board member Carletta Fellows of her credit card after she used the district-issued card to pay hundreds of dollars in utility bills.

Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s), who is campaigning to recapture his seat, said he decided to offer the bill after hearing from his constituents about improving government oversight.

“I’m not looking at anything in the past, I’m just looking toward the future,” he said. “This is about transparency and accountability.”

Under the bill, credit cards would no longer be issued to board members after July 1, 2015.

Washington said the bill would put the school board members on the same footing as county council members.

County council members lost their county-issued credit cards several years ago after a Washington Post article revealed that some members were using the cards for personal expense, including clothing and prescription drugs, a violation of county policy.

Two board members who do not have credit cards expressed some concern with the proposal.

Edward Burroughs (District 8) said he made a personal choice not to have a credit card, but does not fault members who take the option, if they are using it responsibly.

“If they are not using it in a responsible manner then I believe it’s the board’s role to reclaim whatever inappropriate expenditures that they made and to take away the credit card,” he said. “That is what happened in the Carletta Fellows’s case. I believe that is the appropriate course of action.”

Meanwhile, Peggy Higgins (District 2) said she thinks taking away the credit card could be a “hardship” on board members who are on a fixed income.

“We make $18,000 a year, and if they are pulled, they will have to pay in advance, get a receipt and be reimbursed,” Higgins said. “I’m not aware that there is a problem now. With Carletta [Fellows] it was caught and brought to the board’s attention.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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