Audit Faults Ferguson Superintendent's Spending in Former North Carolina Job
An investigative report by the North Carolina state auditor says that Joseph Davis, the new superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant schools in Missouri, misspent or failed to provide receipts for thousands of dollars in spending while serving as superintendent of the state's Washington County school district.
The report said that Davis spent more than $94,000 during a 33-month period without prior authorization from the school board, a documented business purpose, or receipts. Davis also spent $15,800 in federal funds on entertainment. Board members and administrative employees also spent nearly $40,000 without prior authorization, documented business purposes, or receipts, according to the report, which was released this week by North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood.
The investigation was prompted by a hotline complaint about spending and violations of school policies in the Washington County school system, which is located in Plymouth, N.C., according to the report.
The report said that the superintendent spent $48,000 on hotel accommodations, airfare, and car rentals, and rarely provided a documented business purpose for the expenditures, and that he was reimbursed above the district's per diem rate. Another $27,380 was spent on food and beverage purchased during travel, meetings, and events, according to the report.
Davis allegedly spent $15,800 in Title I and Title II funds on entertainment, including $9,025 in Title I funds on inflatable bounce houses for six events, according to the report.
Among the $18,800 in merchandise spending noted: $1,120 on phone accessories and iTunes from the Apple Store; $3,059 in gift cards from Wal-Mart for which no receipts were provided; and $4,475 for which no information was provided, according to the report.
Davis was named superintendent of Missouri's Ferguson-Florissant district last year. The district, in St. Louis County, educates most of the students who live in Ferguson, where the fatal 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police sparked widespread protests.
(We interviewed Davis last summer about his plans for the school system as part of our Beyond Bias series.)
The Associated Press reported that Davis stood by his actions in North Carolina. "I have no reservations about anything I spent," Davis said in a statement to the news agency. "I am a man of integrity, and I stand on what I do."
The Washington County school board's chairman wrote in a Dec. 17 response to the audit that the board accepted the "findings and recommendations with no exception" and pledged to continue to improve its record-keeping processes.