School District Credit Card Controversy

By Al Pefley  email

West Palm Beach, FL (WFLX)

Two Palm Beach County school principals have been under scrutiny for the way they were using their school-district credit cards.  They were charging thousands of dollars worth of meals, gifts and other things for family, friends, and staff.

So what are they supposed to use the credit card for?

There's a list of about a dozen approved expenditures.

But this list is not real specific.

Jonathan Prince, principal at Palm Beach Gardens High,  used his school district credit card to wine and dine his staff, his wife and his relatives. And racked up $4000 in charges for fancy meals, hotel room service and gifts.

Here's what he told school police in March during a taped interview.

"I don't see it as being inappropriate. I think that we've always been given um, a lot of latitude for our internal, our internal funds," Prince said.

He says nobody ever told him what the rules are.

"Clearly I just did not have a clear understanding of what I could and could not use the P-card for," he said.  And Prince said his staff wasn't clear about it either.

"I expect my bookkeepers to help me and they, they, they were clueless with this as well," Prince told school police.

Another principal, Jack Thompson from Boca Raton Community Middle School, racked up almost $7000 in charges for meals and gifts for staff but his charges were deemed to be okay.

So what are the guidelines for use of the credit card by principals?

Here's a list of what the Palm Beach County School district says are approved uses:

"Promotions, public relations, graduation activities, visiting committees, orientation, work conferences, recruitment of employees, official meetings and receptions, guest speakers, accreditation studies, staff development activities, and awards and recognition for meritorious performance."

One school board member, though, feels it's simply not clear enough, leaving principals unsure  about where to draw the line.

"My phone rang off the hook from principals who are very disturbed at the thought that they would not be able to um, provide some incentives to their staffs that work very hard and they want to make sure they're appreciated. So we need to get that cleared up so there's no more of this," said school board member Dr. Debra Robinson at a school board meeting Wednesday.

Besides Prince and Thompson, we've learned there's another high school principal in Palm Beach County who also has been under investigation for improper use of a school district credit card.

The results of that investigation are expected to be released next week. At least for now, the school district is not saying if his purchases were okay, or if he violated school district policy. Stay tuned.