PLEASANT HILL — Newton Local Schools Superintendent Pat McBride addressed the state auditor’s report that ordered the recovery of $2,070 for staff and board member gift cards and an Ohio High School Athletic Association conference expense — all of which have already been repaid by McBride.
In a press release, Auditor of State Keith Faber reported in an audit of Newton Local School District for 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, McBride used a district credit card for $1,625 worth of restaurant gift cards last December and for the purchase of two motivational posters for $445 at the OHSAA conference. The district did not have a gift policy and the school board did not approve the purchases. Faber has issued a finding for recovery of $2,070 against McBride.
McBride repaid the district $445 on Jan. 10 and $1,625 on Jan. 22 for both expenses. Faber’s office considers the findings fully repaid.
On Tuesday, McBride said the district has provided gift cards to the board and staff at Christmas as tokens of appreciation over the last 14 years. Due to the use of public funds, gift cards must be declared for tax purposes. McBride said the gift cards were provided to staff members and board members unable to attend the district’s Christmas luncheon. The district paid for the gift cards in 2018 and 2019 and awarded them in $25 and $50 increments to staff and board members.
“It’s something that not only Newton does, but other districts have done something similar in the past. Now, you aren’t allowed. Now if you do gift cards it has to be on their W2s,” McBride said. “We know it’s not deductible anymore. The reasons for the gift cards was a token of appreciation for people. They were given out at Christmas time. I kept a record and provided that record to the auditors. There wasn’t any maleficence intended. There wasn’t anything I was trying to hide. In 14 years, I never had one issue. Never been spoken to for anything like this. We know it’s not acceptable anymore and we abide by that.”
The audit also uncovered that McBride used the district’s credit card for a $445 personal purchase in 2019. McBride said the $445 expense was related to his attendance at an Ohio High School Athletic Association conference in Columbus. McBride was a member of the board. The purchase was from a vendor at the conference for two motivational posters. McBride said the purchase of the posters with the district credit card was an accident. McBride repaid that expense and donated the posters, which are currently displayed at the district’s community field house.
“In order to maintain the public’s trust in government it is vital that any expense of public dollars be for a designated public purpose,” Faber said. “Moving forward, I recommend the district establish and implement controls to verify that all credit card purchases serve the taxpayer.”
A full copy of the audit report is available at ohioauditor. gov.