Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

Credit card flap leaves hard feelings

February 22, 2007

Members of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education are once again trading barbs, this time regarding allegations of misuse of board funds.

Accusations stem from a series of credit card allocations related to board member Sandra Thierer's trip to the Kansas Association of School Boards conference in January. As regional vice president, Thierer was invited to bring her spouse to the conference as well. With the addition of their son in the same hotel room, the price of the room increased by $20 per night.

Last week, board member Randy Johnson asked the USD 232 administration for receipts related to Thierer's recent travels. When shown that Thierer had not paid the district back until after he made these requests, Johnson contacted the Johnson County District Attorney's office.

"The biggest problem was the time line," Johnson said. "She didn't reimburse the school until after I asked about the charges."

The timing, Thierer says, is a coincidence.

"The money hadn't been paid back because I was waiting until after a second conference in Washington, D.C.," Thierer said. "I always pay for my husband to come with me and for my own meals."

Thierer has traveled for the board several times during her tenure, working out a system with the board clerk to pay back the funds. Current board clerk Wendy Denham confirmed that all board members had paid back the district for travel expenses, including in the past.

"I invoice board members in an e-mail for the difference and usually get reimbursed at the next board meeting," Denham said. "It wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

Johnson said he wanted to bring the district attorney's office in to check past use of the board's credit cards. The district attorney's office declined to comment while the case is being looked into, although school district officials said there would be no action taken.

"She did make the reimbursement," Johnson said. "It was just suspicious that the first time I checked to make sure the board was being paid back, she hadn't done it."

In a letter to the board received on Monday, Thierer claimed the impetus for Johnson's accusations come from a personal issue. Johnson said that although he hoped to see Thierer unseated in the upcoming election, it was not a personal vendetta.

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