The annual report issued by the Chicago Public Schools inspector general said that two former board presidents, Rufus Williams and Michael Scott, misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite its ongoing budget crisis.
Much of the improper spending was concealed, in large part, by manipulating the purchase process and keeping individual payments below the $25,001 threshold, required for approval by board’s chief purchasing officer.
The report issued on Wednesday detailed questionable expenditures totaling more than $800,000 by the pair. Some of the items uncovered in the inspector general’s report were: $12,624 for holiday parties held at Williams’ home; $92,900 donated to charities or organizations connected to Scott or a family member; $5,333 to purchase artwork for their offices; $6,080 for a party at Soldier Field for the Chicago Football Classic, and $1,734 for a limo tab and $1,978 for liquor purchased during a trip to Washington D.C.
Another $3,000 was paid to a security company to conduct electronic sweeps at Scott’s office around the time federal officials were investigating him for handing out slots at elite public schools to star athletes, instead of deserving academic students.
In a prepared statement, mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said “there’s no excuse for frittering away $800,000 in taxpayer money, particularly in times like these. . . We need to ensure that there are accountability measures that prevent this from ever reoccurring. Chicago Public Schools have a responsibility to use taxpayer funds as they are intended: for our children and classrooms.”
Williams, an executive at a financial management company in Chicago, did not comment on the report. Scott committed suicide in November 2009.
Separately, the inspector general disclosed the CPS had leased 36 driver education vehicles without going through the bidding process, which is required by state law.
In January 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported that then-school board president Ron Huberman was having the district pay $1,800 per month on the lease of two personal vehicles.