CAMPBELL (CBSDFW.COM) – The Campbell ISD has hired an independent auditor to research credit statements that show thousands of dollars in questionable expenses charged to a former superintendent’s district-supplied credit card.
According to credit statements acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, former superintendent Strike Franklin’s district-provided American Express card included charges of more than $10,000 spent on overnight stays in Austin, San Antonio and Lake Texoma at high-end hotels and a resort.
The documents show another charge for nearly $1,500 on a family trip to New York. The card was also charged for more than $1,300 toward Dallas Mavericks tickets, the statements show.
The American Express card was used for $300 worth of doctor’s visits and $80 was charged at a liquor store, according to the credit statements.
Franklin, who resigned abruptly in early February after 11 years with the district, said he was advised not to comment on the charges.
“He told me to say no comment,” Franklin said, referring to his attorney. “I asked him if I could talk, because I told him I would like to say something and he said, ‘no.’”
Brian Fox is one of the Hunt County town’s 734 residents. The former IRS auditor took it upon himself to audit the district last year.
Campbell ISD currently has one school for students of all ages. Fox said he started asking questions when a proposal for a new $5 million school arose.
“I was amazed at how much money they were spending,” he said. “I attended some meetings, had lots of questions asked. Several questions, they weren’t answered.”
Fox began filing Freedom of Information requests in November and found evidence, he said, of “a lot of unnecessary expenses.”
“These seven or eight folders were part of the documents I received,” he said. “There are charges in there where he bought TVs and digital cameras.”
Current superintendent Ernie Phelps said there’s an explanation for some of the curious charges.
“There was one trip, I believe to New York, where the points were used on the American Express card,” he said. “They give you reward points, and I believe the points were used.”
Phelps said Franklin began returning some items – such as lawn equipment – and that he reimbursed the district for $3,900, which Phelps said Franklin charged toward a treadmill.
The district has hired an independent auditor to research the charges. The auditor is also researching a new administration building, which was built from scratch and cost $426,000.
Taxpayers complained about the high cost of the building, and many compared it to a basic one-story home. According to the appraisal district, the land it sits on is worth about $4,400.
While Phelps said transparency is one of the district’s priorities, he wouldn’t go into details about the statements because of the looming audit.
When asked if there was any wrongdoing in how the money was spent, Phelps said, “I tend to hope not, I will be shocked if there were.”
One teacher, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, said she was sometimes told the district could not afford to pay for some of her classroom projects.
“It’s really frustrating,” she said. “There were times when I wanted to do an art project and it was emphasized that there was no money.”
Fox said he doesn’t want to see the district go bankrupt.
“I can’t imagine the teachers working as hard as they do and not be able to get supplies and stuff they need and see an administration waste so much money,” he said.
Franklin’s attorney would not issue a statement to CBS 11 News. There is no criminal investigation currently underway.