Education

Ferguson Superintendent Arrested, Accused of Using Former District’s Credit Card; Attorney Denies Charges

By Denisa R. Superville — August 18, 2017 2 min read

Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant superintendent has been arrested on charges that he used a credit card belonging to his former North Carolina district without authorization, according to news reports.

Joseph Davis left the Washington County school system in Plymouth, N.C., in 2015 to lead the Ferguson-Florissant school district, just outside of St. Louis. He is accused of using Washington County’s credit card on Jan. 15 this year to rent a room at Hotel Club Quarters and a Hertz car, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Davis faces two counts of obtaining property by false pretense, the paper said.

Davis’s attorney lawyer said his client “emphatically denies” the charges against him and was “quite surprised” by the allegations. Davis returned his Washington County credit card when he left the district or before he left, the attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, said.

Education Week has reached out to Davis, but had not had a response as of this posting.

The Ferguson-Florissant district said in a Facebook post that Davis was taken into custody on Wednesday, but did not specify the nature of the allegations against the superintendent.

“Dr. Davis requested to be placed on leave to concentrate his efforts on getting this matter cleared, so he can return to leading the school district as quickly as possible,” the Ferguson-Florissant district said. Deputy superintendent Larry Larrew will serve as interim superintendent.

“Our focus is on providing a great education for our students,” Ron Chabot, the board president, said in the post. “Our hope is that Dr. Davis will return to lead the district.”

Davis has been with the Ferguson-Florissant school district since July 2015.

In January 2016, North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood released an independent audit of spending in Washington County during Davis’ tenure. According to the report, Davis had misspent or failed to provide receipts for thousands of dollars in expenditures. He spent more than $94,000 during 33-months without first getting approval from the school board. Some of the money included federal funds, including $9,025 of federal Title I funds he spent on inflatable bounce houses for six events, according to the audit.

At the time the audit was released, the Associated Press quoted Davis as saying that he had “no reservations” about his spending in Washington County.

Education Week spoke with Davis shortly after his arrival in Ferguson about his plans to help move the district and community forward after the shooting death of Michael Brown, whose death sparked national protests against police shootings.

Joseph Davis, superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, visits a classroom in the district in 2015, shortly after assuming duties in the district.

--Sid Hastings for Education Week-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.