Credit: Dan Schere

Montgomery County Public Schools says it is continuing to investigate a potential embezzlement within the district’s transportation department that was detailed in a Sept. 29 audit of the school system’s financial management practices by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. 

MCPS spokesman Chris Cram said in an email Wednesday that the district’s investigation was ongoing and “we are aware of the details available in the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits report.”

Cram said “a great deal of work has been done by MCPS staff over the past year, including hiring forensic auditors, and a significant amount of cooperative work with our police partners. Because of that work, to date, MCPS has recovered in excess of $800,000.”

In mid-November, MCPS confirmed to Bethesda Beat that transportation department Director Todd Watkins and Assistant Director Charles Ewald were placed on administrative leave when allegations of “financial improprieties” were raised.

MCPS at the time did not say what the allegations were, who made them or who within the district’s Department of Transportation was involved. Previously, MCPS and Montgomery County police have declined to provide information beyond sharing the investigation was looking into possible financial improprieties.

In June, MCPS confirmed that Watkins and Ewald were no longer employed by the district. In Wednesday’s email, Cram again confirmed that “the two individuals associated with this matter no longer work for MCPS, but police may still apply charges as part of their investigation.”

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“Because there is still an investigation and work to be done, we cannot comment further at this time,” he said.

Cram did say that as a result of the MCPS internal investigation, the district has taken the following steps:

  • Identified a new vendor for purchasing buses
  • Revised the internal structures that monitor finance and procurement 
  • Reviewed purchasing card transactions
  • Provided retraining for staff who have purchasing cards
  • Evaluated employee access to purchasing cards; and
  • Decreased card purchasing limits. 

According to the audit, MCPS’ procurement department became aware of dubious purchases during a routine review of activity on school system-issued credit cards last year. MCPS found evidence of questionable credit card purchases of gift cards, furniture and other itemsduring an internal audit. These purchases had been shipped to an employee’s home. 

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MCPS also found a transportation vendor’s account funded with money owed to the school district. The account was used to make payments to several MCPS employees and purchase items unrelated to school system functions. 

Montgomery County Police initiated their own investigation in November after being alerted by MCPS.