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Kline says Humphreys warned about spending

August 20, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Washington County School Board member Andrew R. Humphreys was warned by board members several weeks ago that his travel expenses were too high, board President Robert L. Kline said Thursday.

"We've all agreed to clamp down on him," Kline said. "We told him to ease back on travel expenses. He's spending too much money. He thinks he must go to everything."

When asked to comment, Humphreys said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I have yet to hear that." He said he recalls no such meeting.

School board financial records recently made public show that Humphreys spent $5,144 to attend out-of-town meetings and conferences in the 1998 budget year, more than the other four board members combined.

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Humphreys' expenses for fiscal 1998, which ended June 30, were more than half the $8,000 originally budgeted to cover expenses for the five-member board. That budget item was later amended to $11,500, according to board Director of Finance Chris South.

All board members draw from the same budget pool, and there is no per-person limit, board officials said.

Kline said that from now on, Humphreys must clear any travel plans with schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr., or, in his absence, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Theresa Flak.

"If he doesn't listen, I'm talking to our lawyer," Kline said.

Bartlett described Humphreys as a "unique" board member who works hard on board business and spends a lot of time going out and talking to people.

He would not comment on specific board members' travel expenses, but did say that none have done anything against board policy or any local, state or federal laws in connection with their trips.

Bartlett, who is employed by the board, said that as a result of a board decision, he has begun reviewing planned trips by board members.

In the past, Bartlett said, he "signed off" on expense vouchers after the fact.

"We're instituting some checks and balances," he said. "We're working out a solution to what appears to be some difficulties we've had."

Bartlett said that now when things "appear to be getting out of hand," he talks to Kline about specific travel requests before approving them for reimbursement by the board.

"This way, the president knows before the fact what's happening," Bartlett said. "Before, it was left to the individual board member's discretion."

Humphreys said that as far as he knows, that's always been board policy. He said in the almost two years he's been on the board he's always filled out an expense authorization form before going to conventions or meetings. He said those forms were signed by the board president and sent to the finance office.

He said he has never been denied an expense authorization.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, Humphreys lashed out at fellow board members for their criticisms of his expenditures, and accused The Herald-Mail of slanting an article about those expenses.

He claimed he was being targeted when he should have been applauded for attending "meetings and conferences at every level," as he had said he would during his election campaign.

Humphreys said there is a board policy that encourages members to attend programs, conferences and conventions.

Kline said he will carefully review any future travel/business meeting expenses submitted by Humphreys. Kline is the one who reviews and signs reimbursement checks for board members.

Veteran school board member B. Marie Byers said in her tenure she has "not known of anyone overextending" their travel privilege as she feels Humphreys may have done.

"It is true that he is very visible in many places," she said. "I don't fault him for his zeal."

Byers said board members have traditionally policed themselves as far as travel and meeting expenses are concerned.

Board members Edwin Hayes and Doris J. Nipps could not be reached.

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