Audit: Former NC superintendent spent thousands on bounce houses, food, travel

Posted January 5, 2016

Joe Davis, former superintendent of Washington County Schools (Photo: Ferguson-Florissant School District)

— The former superintendent of Washington County Schools spent nearly $16,000 in federal funds meant for at-risk students on food and entertainment, including more than $9,000 on inflatable bounce houses, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

The audit found the former superintendent and school board also spent $134,000 on travel, hotels, food and merchandise without a documented business purpose. They also failed to provide receipts or get approval for the spending.

A call to a tip line sparked the audit. The school system responded to the audit, saying it "accepts the findings and recommendations with no exception" and that it has plans for "corrective actions."

Although he was not named in the audit, former Superintendent Joe Davis led the school system during the time of the questionable spending. He resigned from Washington County Schools last June and now leads the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri.

WRAL News contacted the Missouri school district to get a comment from Davis. A school district spokesman released the following statement: "The Ferguson-Florissant School District Board of Education and Superintendent Davis are aware of the North Carolina audit and will be meeting in the near future to discuss it. Dr. Davis followed all the board policies while superintendent in Washington County Schools and stands by that fact."

Davis' resume says he led the coastal school system, which has five schools, from 2012 to 2015 and was in charge of a $21 million budget.

Among the audit's findings about the former superintendent's spending:

  • He spent more than $94,000 on travel, meals and merchandise over a 33-month period.
  • He spent $48,021 on hotels, flights, car rentals and fees but rarely provided documentation about the spending. He was also regularly reimbursed above the school's per diem rates.
  • He traveled to 23 out-of-state destinations and 38 in-state destinations. He traveled to Nashville, Tenn., four times and Asheville seven times. There was no evidence that he received prior approval for those 11 trips, and a business purpose was not documented for 10 of the 11 trips.
  • He spent $27,380 on food during travel and local events. He even used his school credit card to buy meals locally when meeting with board members and employees. He did not get itemized receipts and rarely documented a business purpose for local meals.
  • He spent $18,800 on merchandise by using his school credit card without sufficient documentation to support legitimate school purposes.
  • He spent $15,800 of Title I and Title II federal funds on entertainment without federal authorization.
    – $9,025 – inflatable bounce houses (six events)
    – $5,925 – food (17 events)
    – $600 – video game trailer (one event)
    – $250 – gift cards (Christmas party)

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  • Dan May Jan 6, 2016
    user avatar

    Now he has moved on to fleecing the school system in Ferguson? Hasn't that town suffered enough? sheesh..
    Sad that school boards blindly accept this type of behavior. This man needs to be criminally charged but I'm sure nothing will happen. After all it was only taxpayer money.

  • Fanny Chmelar Jan 6, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Seriously. I had a late fee removed from my company credit card. My company insisted I submit a zero-dollar expense report because every single action must be audited.
    While they're going after him, they need to go after their own system that let this happen in the first place.

  • Roy Hinkley Jan 6, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    One is never too old for a bounce house :)

  • 212thMP Jan 6, 2016

    And to think the parents and teachers spent their own money on the kids school supplies because of "shortages" of funds.. Send his a@# to jail...

  • Mike Rigsbee Jan 6, 2016
    user avatar

    Why does it always take so long for the school system to notice when this type of fraud and embezzelment is going on? They always seem to audit these guys long after they have moved on!

  • ecp1951 Jan 6, 2016

    entitlement philosophy at its finest! just like the messiah in the white house!

  • Marcy Lyn Jan 5, 2016
    user avatar

    Bit old for the bounce houses.. don't ya think ?

  • Madison Williams Jan 5, 2016
    user avatar

    Abuse of power stories like this really upset me. Especially when they involve a profiteer like this posing as an educator. Shame on you!

  • Milton Bailey Jan 5, 2016
    user avatar

    IMHO the full audit report should be forwarded to his current employer, if for no other reason to inform them what to expect from this outstanding citizen. Then issue a arrest warrant for his arrest and return to Washington county for trial. Embezzlement is a crime he should be punished for committing

  • William Mitchell Jan 5, 2016
    user avatar

    One last remark. The allegations made here represent a clear violation of law. Embezzlement is a felony in North Carolina. That having been said why is there no mention of a pending SBI Investigation and/or criminal charges?