Victor Skinner, EAGNEWS.org
WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. – School-issued credit cards are too much of a temptation for some employees, particularly when nobody is paying close attention to how they’re used.
One of the latest stories of abuse comes from El Camino Real Charter School in Woodland Hills, California, where high school Principal David Fehte allegedly rang up thousands of dollars worth of personal transactions on school cards, or spent exorbitant amounts of money doing school business, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
In 2014-15, for example, Fehte charged more than $15,500 at Monty’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, an upscale restaurant, while hosting school staff meetings, the newspaper reported.
Fehte and two other school employees spent more than $6,700 for a four-day trip to Michigan to visit the headquarters of Herman Miller, an office furniture manufacturing company.
They flew first class and stayed in $359 per night hotel rooms to look at classroom furniture. The trip was far from necessary, because Herman Miller has a showroom in Los Angeles, about 25 miles from El Camino Real Charter High School, the news report said.
Fehte and the school’s assistant principal flew first-class to Hawaii in 2014, when the El Camino Real decathlon team competed in a national championship tournament. Their tickets came to $1,890 apiece. Everyone else from the school flew in the economy section, the news report said.
There are also accusations that Fehte, a former college basketball coach, charged expenses to the school for trips he made as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association.
“Fehte used the school card for expenses on two trips to Greensboro, N.C., during the March weekends of the 2014 and 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournaments,” the Daily News reported.
“In 2014 he charged $972 total at a luxury hotel 10 minutes from the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the site of the tournament. Fehte, 55, signed a school form that stated one of the hotel charges was for a ‘Green Initiative,’ apparently a reference to the school’s environmental conservation efforts.
“Documents of Fehte’s reimbursements to El Camino show no payments for the Greensboro trips, or for $511 of airfare from Burbank to Spokane, Wash., home of the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.
“When asked in late April and May about the Greensboro and Spokane travel expenses, Fehte said they were for ‘personal’ reasons, that he used the school card in ‘error,’ and that he paid back the school. He also said the reference to the ‘Green initiative’ was a ‘clerical error.’
“School administrators also said Fehte reimbursed El Camino for the charges. But neither Fehte nor the administrators provided documentation of the payments when requested.”
In June, El Camino’s school board voted to hired an accounting firm to review all school credit card charges, at an estimated cost of $20,000, according to the Daily News. The school will also have a management assistance review from the state, which will cost another $28,000.
“Last month, the El Camino governing board voted to cancel Fehte’s credit card and those of all but one school administrator,” the Daily News reported in June.
“The El Camino board also voted to adjust its spending procedures regarding travel and other expenses incurred by school employees. Air travel must run economy or coach, for instance, but employees can upgrade to economy-plus.”
Better late than never, we suppose.