The superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant schools misspent federal funds and failed to get proper authorization for other spending at his former district, according to an audit released in North Carolina.
Joseph Davis, hired at the north St. Louis County district last year, previously led Washington County Schools in Plymouth, N.C. While there, he used $16,000 of federal funds meant to improve learning for students at risk of failing on entertainment and food for school events, the audit found.
It also said the former superintendent spent more than $94,000 on travel, food and merchandise without prior written authorization from board chairs, a documented business purpose or expenditure receipts. Board members and other administrative employees of Washington County schools also did the same with about $40,000, according to the findings.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Ferguson-Florissant School District said the School Board and Davis are aware of the audit and will be meeting in the near future to discuss it.
“Dr. Davis followed all the board policies while superintendent in Washington County Schools and stands by that fact,” the statement read.
The investigative audit, prompted by a hotline call, was released this week.
Included in the findings: The former superintendent spent $48,021 on hotel accommodations, airline tickets and car rental fees. An additional $27,380 was spent by the former superintendent for food and beverages bought during travel, local meetings and events. The former superintendent bought meals on the school-issued credit card while meeting with employees or board members locally, as well as during travel.
The inappropriate spending of the federal funds paid for inflatable bounce houses for six school events, food at 17 events and gift cards. The audit found that an employee had advised the former superintendent not to spend the money on entertainment, but he disregarded the advice.
The auditor has recommended that the Washington County School Board create policies and procedures to ensure expenses incurred by its superintendent are authorized, documented, reasonable in cost and support school system objectives. Ferguson-Florissant’s current policy prohibits district employees from making unauthorized or personal purchases with district funds. Board members receive the superintendent’s spending statements regularly. as a part of district financial reports.
Davis is in his first year at the helm of the struggling Ferguson-Florissant School District, which has faced challenges during the last several years with academic performance, funding, community unrest and a controversial board decision to remove the former superintendent.
In 2011, the then-School Board president resigned after four members and two of their spouses took an all-expenses-paid-by-the-district trip to California for a conference.