PONTIAC (WXYZ) - The Pontiac School District is deep in debt, and is expected to grow to about $26 million, according to a letter from the State Department of Education.
7 Action News Investigator Bill Proctor has been looking at how the strapped school district has been spending your tax dollars--that includes a contract with one company who does what some say a secretary used to do for years.
Debbie Vargas has had a contract with Pontiac schools for $66,000 a year for basically a four-day work week, according to the agreement which has been obtained by 7 Action News.
The contract says the duties include scheduling meetings, preparing board minutes and meeting packets, scheduling board conferences and trips and other board-related business.
What’s not listed in that contract is how many times -- and how much food – Vargas bought for the board on her school-district-issued credit card. According to records obtained by 7 Action News, there are thousands of dollars in charges for Happy’s Pizza and other restaurants between March of 2010 and August of 2011.
In 18 months, about $51,000 in credit card charges were made on Vargas’s district card.
When 7 Action News asked Vargas about her work for the board.
“It’s cheaper than a secretary,” says Vargas. “It’s cheaper than a lot of other things. We provide ... I provide 24-hour service.”
Other charges on that same credit card include one from last September when Vargas bought a round trip ticket to Atlanta for Pontiac School Board member Gil Garrett.
And why, when the district was $25 million in debt, did he spend thousands on a conference when two months later his term on the board was over?
The expensive travel, the food bought on district credit cards, were never monitored or even questioned by the school board, sources tell 7 Action News.
“I was shocked to find that not only was food used at almost every meeting, but the amount, the dollar amount, of food that was ordered was appalling to me,” says Jonathan Brown, Pontiac Schools’ former Interim Superintendent.
Brown filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the board members and school district after he was fired last November. His lawsuit accuses the district of letting him go because he revealed alleged financial misconduct to the state.
Just hours ago, 7 Action News obtained this letter from the State of Michigan’s Department of Education to the Pontiac schools. It says the state has “serious concerns about the financial viability of the Pontiac School District."
Chief among those concerns: How the district more than doubled its debt to about $26 million when it was supposed to be trying to eliminate it.
And on Wednesday night at 11, 7 Action News will show you how one Pontiac school leader spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Godiva chocolate, Honey Baked Ham, Panera Bread and other goodies, according to her school district-issued credit card records-- and how she now heads another local school district that has gone deeper into debt.
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