Audit: State overpaid on travel for education-board chairman (W-S Journal) your barf-bags ready…I have here a very disgusting story because it involves government waste at its worst, almost borderline-fraud.

And for everyone out there who does NOT believe that our state department of public instruction needs reform…pay attention to this: From today’s Winston-Salem Journal…a state audit uncovered overpayments for state travel reimbursements totaling more than $57,000 for state board of education chairman Howard Lee. Apparently, the good chairman felt as though he did not want to drive his personal car between his home in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, where he “conducts” most of his “state business.” Note…some of that “state business” also includes the work he does as an appointed member of the state utilities commission.

Now follow along…as a member of the utilities commission, Lee is classified as a state employee, pulling in a salary of $119,000. But as a member of the state board of education, he is not considered a full-time state employee.

But, according to the article, he requested use of a state-issued vehicle to use.

Here’s the sickening part:

Beginning in September 2004 – and continuing until recently – Lee shuttled back and forth between the two cities in rental cars paid for with taxpayer money, according to the report, which was released yesterday.During the 34-month period examined in the audit, Lee drove about 68,000 miles in rented Chrysler 300s at a total cost of $57,100.

Under state regulations, Lee was entitled to be reimbursed for his travel. Initially, he used his own car and was eligible for a reimbursement of 25 cents a mile, the same rate that is given to all members of state boards who are not state employees.

After a few months on the school board, because of increased mileage on his personal car, Lee asked to be given a state-issued vehicle to use. But only state employees are legally authorized to drive state cars, and Lee, as a board member, was not considered a state employee.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction then considered renting or leasing a car for Lee to use. Because of concerns about being locked into a long-term lease, the department agreed to allow Lee to rent a car from a local rental company.

According to the auditor’s report, the state could have gotten a 36-month lease for the same car and saved about $26,000.


I’m sorry…I only wish I could drive 68,000 miles in a rented Chrysler 300…my God, they couldn’t even give him a Hyundai subcompact? I would be very interested in knowing who at DPI signed off on this?

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. State Supt. June Atkinson in full damage control (the spin here is disgusting):
“In hindsight, given the Chairman’s extensive travels to address the significant reform issues facing our public schools, a lease would have been a more cost effective option,” wrote June Atkinson, the state superintendent of public instruction.

Atkinson added that at the time that the department settled on a rental car, renting seemed a better option because it required a shorter commitment than a lease.

The auditor’s office also said that Lee is now eligible to drive a state-issued vehicle – a cheaper option than either renting or leasing.


More outrage:

According to the audit, once Lee became a state employee on the utilities commission, he could have driven a state-issued car instead of a rental. That would have saved the state about $33,000, the audit said.

But the department of public instruction disputed that finding. The department said it has repeatedly tried to get a state-issued car for Lee, but even after his appointment to the utilities commission, he remained legally ineligible to drive a state-issued car while carrying out education business.

The department “consistently has attempted to provide the State Board of Education Chairman with the most cost effective, legal transportation available while traveling on State Board of Education business,” the department said in a statement. The department also said that Lee stopped driving a rented car on Sept. 20.


I’ve seen enough.

$57,000 would buy a whole lot of supplies for teachers. It would outfit a school computer lab nicely, it would be enough to provide laptops for several teachers, you know, the ones who you, the state, constantly harp on using technology in the classroom?

$57,000. It’s your money. Worst of all, it’s the children’s money. Now, if you will excuse me, let me go use that barf bag.

E.C. 🙂


One Response

  1. Honey, you are still very young so do stock up on those bags as you will be needing a regular supply. Brenda Bowers

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