There is yet-another example of government waste of taxpayer dollars, this time in the suburbs north of Washington, D.C. Two government employees misused purchase cards to buy items for themselves, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They worked for the Montgomery County Public Schools Department of Transportation and, with other department employees, spent over $800,000 of taxpayer dollars on personal purchases.
WTOP reported that the two employees, Todd Watkins and Charles Ewald, are no longer working for the school system. Watkins resigned in March 2021 from his position as department director and Ewald was terminated in February 2021 as Watkin’s assistant director.
The county’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) began an investigation of the MCPS transportation department in May 2021 and later reported the matter to the county police.
Ewald spent around $133,000 on prohibited purchases and $1,600 were labeled as “personal” purchases by the IG’s office. Ewald bought drag racing tires, a sport kayak roof rack, gift cards from Amazon and Home Depot, and an Apple Watch band, which were identified in September 2021. The IG’s office said that Ewald “entered misleading descriptions of certain purchases” in an attempt to “possibly… disguise personal purchases as work related.”
It was not limited to Ewald or Watkins, but also other employees in their department. Among their total purchases unrelated to their work, there were gift cards and office furniture totaling over $78,000.
A MCPS spokesperson said that over $800,000 has been recovered.
As far as preventing this misuse of taxpayer dollars, the IG said that cooperation with law enforcement will help retriever stolen funds and prosecute these types of cases, in addition to frequent reviews of departments and creating more financial audits.
One of the major questions is why was this news not disclosed earlier, considering the misuse of taxpayer dollars happened over a year ago. MCPS, which is one of the largest public school systems in the Washington, D.C. area, has its work cut out on making sure taxpayer dollars are not stolen in the same manner.