MCPS misused emergency funds in sexual harassment investigation, new OIG report says

The Office of the Inspector General found Montgomery County Public Schools misused hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a report released on Thursday.

The five-page report indicates MCPS improperly used 'emergency procurements' on crisis management and communication services totaling $210,000.

This all relates to the controversy surrounding Dr. Joel Beidleman, the former middle school principal accused of bullying and harassment and the way the district handled misconduct complaints to respond to media.

The inspector general's investigation began after their office received a hotline complaint in April.

Janis Sartucci with the watchdog group Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County said this was all about damage control.

"This was all about the reputation of the Board of Education and protecting the individuals on the Board of Education without a thought in the world to what's going on in the classroom and what students need," Sartucci said.

Sartucci added that unchecked spending like this is one of the biggest problems in the county.

RELATED: MCPS reaches $300K settlement in lawsuit against former principal

"Parents, community members, they think education funding means classrooms. They think when they pay their property taxes, that money is going to classrooms to support students and teachers," Sartucci said. "In fact, tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars in this $3.2 billion education budget go to things like this damage control."

One parent FOX 5 spoke with, Priya Baskaran, said she would love to see resources be diverted into schools rather into administrative bloat.

"The point of the schools is in fact the students and the education and if we're not investing in that, then we've lost the plot so that's how I feel as a parent," Baskaran said.

"One of MCCPTA's advocacy priorities regarding MCPS is to increase transparency and trust, so we applaud the IG's commitment to thoroughly examining MCPS actions that are concerning," said Brigid Howe, MCCPTA President.

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which represents 14,000 educators, sent FOX 5 the following statement:

The OIG's Memorandum of Investigation confirms an ongoing pattern of personnel and financial mismanagement at the top of MCPS. As MCPS misspent valuable tax dollars on covering up misdeeds, it shifted time and attention away from what should have been its top priority: our students.   

RELATED: MCPS releases report further detailing investigation into Joel Beidleman 

This latest revelation comes as no surprise since MCPS has subjected its students and educators to an atmosphere of mistrust and instability over the past year. Unfortunately, this disclosure does little to help the district repair its credibility with the community. Incoming Superintendent Dr. Taylor’s first order of business must be to get his house in order, rebuild the community’s confidence in MCPS leadership, and restore MCPS’s reputation as a great place to learn and work.  

MCPS Board of Education released the following statement to FOX 5, saying:

"The Montgomery County Board of Education appreciates the Inspector General’s work and acknowledges the missteps in MCPS’ procurement process as outlined in the report. The Board is conducting a policy and regulatory review to strengthen processes and procedures and enhance oversight in compliance with regulatory requirements."

The following statement is from Montgomery County Public Schools:

"We appreciate the time and effort invested by the OIG in this investigation. We take their findings very seriously and view them as an opportunity to strengthen our current processes."