UPPER MARLBORO – A Prince George’s County Board of Education committee meeting Thursday night to consider changes to policies regarding credit card usage and expense reimbursements turned into a conversation about how expense accounts should be used.
The board’s Policy, Legal and Legislative Committee’s consideration of policy changes comes after The Sentinel reported board members spent thousands on local meals and a retreat at a hotel in National Harbor. According to credit card receipts and expense reports, the board’s vice chair, Carolyn Boston, and school board member Verjeana Jacobs used their credit cards for the most meals of any board members between January 2013 and May 2014. Boston purchased 114 meals totaling more than $5,500 and Jacobs purchased 87 meals totaling more than $6,200.
The retreat cost taxpayers more than $5,000 plus additional costs for room service and overnight valet parking.
The proposed policy changes define allowable expenses and unallowable expenses.
According to a draft of the new policy, “Board members must use prudence and exercise due care in incurring expenses.”
Unallowable expenses include:
• Payment for hire or salary of an individual
• Any personal bills or expenses not related to the BOE
• Cash or cash advances except use on non-local travel
• Alcohol beverages and tobacco products
• Non-business (BOE) related meals
• Expenses related to family members and spouse travel
• Relocation expenses
• In-flight internet
• In-room movies
• Hotel mini bars
• Laundry services
• Valet services
• Airline membership fees
• Incremental costs over standard-size room rates and upgrades
• Cancellation fees where reasonable prudent actions could have been taken to avoid such charges
• First class airline, train or other travel tickets or upgrades
• Rental cars for local travel
• Parking tickets and traffic violations
• Clothing/personal items
• Contributions to support religious or political activities
• Board member compensation in any form from expense account
The new policy also defines local meals as “meals taken within 30 miles or less” from the board’s office building in Upper Marlboro. The policy restricts board members to two local meals weekly and requires meals with more than three people to be pre-approved.
To obtain reimbursement for meals, board members must limit themselves to $17 for breakfast, $20 for lunch and $39 for dinner – a total of $76 per day.