State prosecutors investigate school board’s use of credit cards in Montgomery County

Maryland state prosecutors are investigating whether the Montgomery County Board of Education’s use of county-issued credit cards amounts to criminal misconduct, according to officials familiar with the probe and a subpoena issued this month.

The state investigation came to light at a school board meeting Tuesday, when President Phil Kauffman reported that the board had received a request for records from the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor.

Schools officials provided The Washington Post with a copy of the subpoena — dated June 10 — requesting all board-issued credit card statements and related documents dating to Jan. 1, 2012.

Kauffman said the board had turned over the documents and will cooperate with state authorities. The board also has posted on its public Web site nearly 1,500 pages of documents related to the board’s credit card use and expenses.

James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor, said he could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

The prosecutor’s office has the authority to investigate when it has reason to believe that a crime might have occurred in Maryland, Cabezas said. In some cases, the office initiates investigations; in others, it begins investigations after receiving complaints. If no criminal violations are found in such a case, matters could be referred to a county ethics commission.

Concerns about credit card use by Montgomery school board members surfaced in recent weeks after the release of records showing that member Christopher S. Barclay, who is running for County Council, had made unauthorized charges for which he later reimbursed the county. A school board committee is recommending changes in rules and procedures for credit card use and spending by board members.

In addition, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has asked for a review of spending by and rules for the district’s senior staff members, school system spokesman Dana Tofig said.

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