July 30

The recent controversy over credit card use by Montgomery County Board of Education members touches on something far more significant than a few unauthorized hotel expenses [“Montgomery board gives up its school system credit cards,” Metro, July 30]. When I began serving on the Montgomery County Council, I was surprised to learn that the public school system, which accounts for more than half of the county’s budget, employs no independent auditor. You would think that our schools would put extra emphasis on transparency and accountability. In fact, the opposite is true.

If the existing financial oversight mechanisms were sufficient, the credit card controversy likely would have been avoided; instead, the board assembled an ad hoc committee to evaluate discoveries made by a citizens group. This is not the right process for public accountability.

Montgomery County is rightly proud of its schools, and our willingness to invest in public education helps give Maryland its competitive edge. But the council, which appropriates the money, and the residents, who elect the council and school board, have a right to independent confirmation of how the money is spent. Regular, professional oversight is needed. It is time for Montgomery County Public Schools to have its own inspector general.

Cherri Branson, Silver Spring

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 5 (Eastern County) on the Montgomery County Council.