Some School Districts Resistant to Posting Credit Card Statements Online

September 29, 2016

Jay Chilton

[Part four in a series]

By Jay Chilton, CIJ

One portion of an Oklahoma law dealing with financial disclosure requires local school districts to publish credit card statements online. And though some districts have expressed a willingness to comply with the law, other districts refuse to post the information on their websites.

Clinton Public Schools financial officer Donna Warnick told the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) she did not think credit card expenditure reports were required to be posted on the website. “I don’t understand. We don’t post that,” she said. “I don’t think it’s required to be there.”

Clinton assistant superintendent Tyler Bridges told CIJ the district is not required to post credit card expenditure reports on the district’s website, but rather is only required to submit the information to the State Department of Education. The district’s legal counsel says the district is in compliance with the law, he said.

A search of the Tahlequah Public Schools website also failed to produce any credit card expenditure reports. “I am well aware of the law,” said Diane Adamson, director of finance for Tahlequah Public Schools. “But we have more than 300 credit card accounts and we have asked the legislature for clarification about which accounts have to be posted.

“We don’t have the funding to post all the credit card expenditure reports,” she said. “When the legislature funds us properly, we’ll comply with the law.”

Subsequent to Adamson’s conversation with CIJ, Tahlequah reversed its position and added a new page to the district’s website. Credit card statements, organized by year, are now posted online.

Citing statutory limitations on the Attorney General’s ability to give legal opinions to the media, Lincoln Ferguson, press secretary for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, referred questions on school district transparency to the State Department of Education.

Steffie Corcoran, executive director of communications for the State Department of Education, told CIJ that “If a district has a website, it is required to post its budget and all credit card statements by department.”

Compliance with the law is not voluntary, she said.

When asked about possible ramifications if a school district failed to comply, she replied, “At this time, there are none.”

“We are committed to seeing that all laws are followed and will continue to prioritize robust fiduciary oversight of state and federal dollars,” state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told CIJ in a statement. “We are disappointed that our request bill to strengthen auditing oversight did not pass last legislative session, but we will continue to demand accounting and auditing be strengthened in statute.”