Credit Card Spending by Minneapolis District Leaders Raises Questions

By Corey Mitchell — January 12, 2015 1 min read
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Leaders in the Minneapolis school system used district credit cards for unauthorized purchases and failed to follow expense policies, a review of school expenses by the Minneapolis Star Tribune found.

Outgoing Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson and CEO Michael Goar repaid the district for expenses only after the newspaper inquired about them.

The Star Tribune reviewed $1.5 million in credit card expenses submitted by 262 employees since last summer. A sample of 270 expense reports reviewed by the paper showed nearly half were submitted with no supporting receipts. Some transactions for more than $1,000 included no receipts even though district policies require receipts for every expense.

School officials spent thousands of dollars at grocery stores, retail stores and restaurants in Minneapolis and around the country. The chief executive’s secretary spent $2,000 framing high school sweatshirts for a conference room. The secretary for the district’s human resources director charged $1,000 for balloons for job fairs.

The questions about spending and financial record keeping of expenses by Minneapolis school officials come at a time when the district is facing a budget shortfall of more than $5 million.

Goar owed the district nearly $500, which included two purchases from a high-end office supply store and some meals. Johnson repaid $185 in food charges. She announced in December that she will resign from the district at the end of January. Her departure is not connected to the unauthorized purchases.

School officials dismissed the idea that the receipt issue reflects a larger problem about financial controls. Leah Halvorson, the district’s procurement director, told the newspaper that the school system closely scrutinizes spending in monthly audits.

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