Education official used office credit cards illegally
The superintendent of Illinois Regional Office of Education No. 12 (ROE) used two ROE credit cards to make personal purchases, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) reported recently.
Monte Newlin's purchases were identified in an Illinois auditor general’s report released in June.
“The ROE has six (6) credit cards, two (2) of which are used by the Regional Superintendent," the report reads. "During our testing of ROE credit card expenditures, we found personal expenses of the Regional Superintendent charged to both cards at various times throughout the year."
The audit confirmed that Newlin paid the entire cost of the purchases with his own money after receiving the credit card statements.
"These expenses were paid in full by the Regional Superintendent with personal checks written to the credit card companies," the report reads. "The ROE maintained copies of the personal checks and the related charge receipts with the credit card statements. Personal expenses charged to each of the cards in fiscal year 2015 amounted to $1,562 and $669, for a total of $2,231.”
Responding to a letter from the auditor general's office, the ROE said that Newlin hadn’t realized that using the office's credit cards for personal purchases was a violation of the public trust, the ECW said.
“The Regional Office of Education No. 12 did not realize that this was not an acceptable practice as the Regional Superintendent paid all personal expenses when the credit card payment was due," the ROE said, according to the ECW.
The watchdog group has raised several questions about the response and the initial use of the funds, including noting that Newlin filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy a few years ago.
“His history of the recent bankruptcy was probably the real reason he used the public credit card instead of a personal one (if he could even obtain one that soon after bankruptcy,)” wrote John Kraft, co-founder of the ECW.
The group also asserts that Newlin, a former high school principal, teacher, guidance counselor, community college teacher and village trustee, should have known that using public credit cards for personal costs was illegal.
“He had to have known that thru his previous employment,” Kraft wrote. “But now when it is convenient for him – he claims ignorance of the law and the Illinois Constitution – and the auditor bought it?”
The ECW said public body auditors should be required to report potentially illegal activities so that they can be examined for possible prosecution.
Although Newlin paid the amount he financed on the credit cards, the ECW said he still basically used the credit as a private loan.
In response to the findings, the auditor general's report said that the regional superintendent should no longer charge any personal expenses on the ROE credit cards. The contact person listed for compliance is Monte Newlin, regional superintendent.