The Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor has subpoenaed Montgomery County school board expense records to investigate the possibility of criminal activity after the office received an allegation related to the expenses.
James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor office, said that the office does not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation.
Cabezas said the office received an allegation related to the county school board’s expenses.
“When an allegation comes in, at that point, all we have is information. We don’t know what’s factual and what’s not,” he said, speaking generally. “An investigative tool is to obtain copies of books and records in order to determine what the truth might be.”
The June 10 subpoena asks for documents “for any and all Montgomery County Board of Education issued credit cards” from Jan. 1, 2012 to the present.
The documents requested include account statements, billing statements, receipts, invoices and reimbursement records, according to the subpoena.
The state’s request comes amid a school board committee review of board members’ expenses and usage of school system-issued credit cards. The committee has developed recommendations for a series of changes to pass on to the full school board.
Scrutiny of board members’ expenses was spurred by the discovery that school board member Christopher S. Barclay used his school system-issued credit card to make multiple purchases totalling nearly $1,500, charges he had to reimburse.
Board members have stopped using their cards during the committee’s review.
School board President Philip Kauffman said during the board’s Tuesday meeting that the state prosecutor’s office made one of many requests the school system received for records of board member expenses and credit card usage.
“The board will continue to fully cooperate with the state prosecutor and we have already provided them with the same documents that have been made available to the public which are currently posted on the board of education’s website under the ‘expense reports’ tab,” Kauffman said.
Cabezas said, speaking generally, that the office gathers evidence in an investigation to determine whether criminal activity occurred.
If the office finds criminal activity, he said, it is sometimes, but not always, appropriate to bring a charge.
“That threshold has to be very high,” he said, referring to the point where the office decides a charge is appropriate.
Sometimes prosecutors find technical violations but cannot establish criminal intent, he said.
“We have to look at why things happen,” he said.
Should state prosecutors find no evidence of criminal intent in an investigation, the office has several options, he said, including taking no further action or referring the case to an ethics commission.