Former NC superintendent accused of misusing money gets support from new school system

Posted January 7, 2016

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

— The former superintendent of Washington County Schools who was accused in an audit earlier this week of misusing thousands of dollars on bounce houses and other entertainment received some support Thursday night.

Joe Davis, who now works as superintendent at Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri, met with school board members Thursday night to discuss the audit and his spending habits while in North Carolina.

Ferguson-Florissant's school board chairman released a statement after the meeting, saying the board "remains steadfast in its confidence in Dr. Davis and his integrity and leadership."

"I want to assure you that FFSD has policies and procedures in place regarding travel and other expenditures by all district staff, including the Superintendent, as well as the Board of Education," the chairman said. "Additionally, all purchases using District cards are included for board review in the monthly board packet."

A state audit released Tuesday found that Davis 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 while he was superintendent in Washington County.

Although he was not named in the audit, Davis led the school system during the time of the questionable spending. He resigned from Washington County Schools last June and accepted the superintendent job in Missouri.

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. Washington County Schools responded to the audit, saying it "accepts the findings and recommendations with no exception" and that it has plans for "corrective actions."

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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