By April Witt and David s. Fallis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A technology manager for District schools who stuck schoolchildren with his tabs for thousands of dollars worth of lavish restaurant meals, nightclub jaunts and a visit to a strip club was charged yesterday with filing fraudulent expense reimbursement requests.
The city's attorney general charged Emerson Crawley with 17 misdemeanor counts of false representation for claiming in 2004 and 2005 that personal meals, drinks and adult entertainment expenses were for school-related training and meetings, according to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.
Crawley, 41, of the District, is an employee of Afterschool for All, a program that provides afternoon instruction and supervision to impoverished children in more than 80 public schools.
Over two years, Crawley fraudulently billed more than $11,300 to a student activity fund at Shaw Junior High School, where the Afterschool for All program is based, according to an affidavit supporting the criminal charges.
In an interview yesterday, Crawley said he is being unfairly singled out for practices that were routine in his program and condoned by previous supervisors. "I'm being made the fall guy," he said.
D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer called the actions that Crawley is accused of "an insult to the kids" and "one symptom of long-term lack of leadership and management" in the schools. "This kind of abuse of the public trust, particularly of our schoolchildren, is not going to be tolerated," she said.
Crawley is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 4. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines on each count, a spokesperson for the attorney general said.
Crawley was the subject of an article in The Washington Post on Nov. 9 documenting that D.C. public school employees routinely misuse or steal student activity money and are rarely held accountable.
The Post determined that one of Crawley's reimbursement requests, for $225 spent with RAH of Washington, was for a visit to the Camelot Show Bar, a strip club. Crawley's reimbursement request described the visit as a "school planning meeting," records show.
Student activity funds, which are depositories for proceeds from bake sales and other sources, are supposed to benefit only students. But chaotic management and ineffective oversight have made it easy for school employees and others to plunder the funds, The Post found.
School officials are working on improving oversight of the funds and training of those who handle them. "We're trying to figure out how many more cases there are out there like this that need to be resolved," said Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for the schools chancellor.
Auditors determined last year that Crawley and a co-worker had been reimbursed for more than $13,000 in improper expenses, including "elaborate lunches and dinners, happy hour cocktails and night-caps." Afterschool for All employees dined so frequently at one restaurant, on half of all workdays from Feb. 22 thorough April 26, 2005, that Crawley kept an account there, audit records show.
After the audit, Crawley began repaying money he had been improperly reimbursed. Of the criminal charges, he said, "I feel that this is double jeopardy."
The attorney general said, "The trust and the opportunity that this alleged misconduct, and others like it, takes from kids and from the public, you can't ever repay."