Lawmakers question expenses for Colorado Board of Education
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” State Board of Education members spent as much as $60,000 on individual expenses in the past fiscal year, including nearly $26,000 by one member alone, The Associated Press has learned.
The panel, which oversees public education, listed another $82,000 for combined board expenses on such things as meals, cell phones, picture frames, meeting rooms and Christmas cards.
A document listing the expenses was provided to the AP on Tuesday after lawmakers ordered an audit of the board.
The expenses were for fiscal 2007, which ran from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007. They included $1,840 for a buffet for 100 guests and thousands of dollars for members to stay at upscale hotels.
Board chairwoman Pamela Jo Suckla claimed $25,851 in expenses during that time, and Evie Hudak claimed $11,316, the document showed.
Peggy Little claimed $10,025, Randy DeHoff $5,970, Karen Middleton $4,013, Jared Polis $997 and Elaine Gantz Berman $763.
Records indicate the board also spent $3,500 for a retirement party when Polis, a millionaire who is running for Congress, left the board. But his spokeswoman, Dayna Hanson, said Polis paid for the party and the costs shouldn’t have shown up as a state expense.
Hanson said that $385 the board spent on flowers and $212 for a clock given to Polis were standard gifts to every retiring member, but she said he would be happy to reimburse the state.
Suckla said her expenses were higher than other members’ because she has to commute from her home in Slickrock on the Western Slope, rent cars and stay in hotels, while others live along the Front Range.
She said the board held more meetings than usual last year because members were searching for a new education commissioner.
She said members have to stay at hotels like the tony Broadmoor in Colorado Springs because that’s where educational conferences are held.
Suckla said she tried to keep expenses low and avoid conferences.
“We don’t get paid,” she said. “You have to pay our expenses if you want people to run.”
Mark Stevens, spokesman for the Department of Education, which maintains the records, said no summaries of individual members’ expenses are available from previous years because of the way they were filed.
Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, said he requested the audit after hearing reports of “out of control” spending by the eight-member board.
Johnson said he couldn’t understand why some members spent less than $1,000, while others spent far more, even though they lived close enough to drive to meetings.
“It sounds to me like there was very loose accounting and accountability for those members,” he said.
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