Georgia school official's travel expenses questioned

State Superintendent Barge billing taxpayers for car costs

ATLANTA -- Georgia’s schools chief has been collecting a state car allowance worth more than $7,000 a year even though the state stopped offering the allowance to officials several years before he took office.

 

In addition, records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that state Schools Superintendent John Barge in 2012 regularly billed drives to and from his home in northwest Georgia as business travel. That’s a practice the state’s top accountant said is “inconsistent with IRS guidelines.”

In an interview with the AJC Wednesday, Barge said he was unaware that state budget officials had eliminated the vehicle allowance, which adds $587 a month to his state paycheck of more than $130,000 a year. He said his predecessors Kathy Cox and Brad Bryant received the stipend, which he believed to be “part of the superintendent’s salary package.”

“Our folks thought we were doing exactly as we were being guided to do,” said Barge, whose aides met Wednesday with state officials to discuss travel policy after the AJC inquired about the payments. “We’re not trying to defraud anybody of anything.”

However, records show that Barge’s staff was informed in November 2011 that he couldn’t claim the motor vehicle allowance because it was “discontinued in fiscal year 2006.” In the memo, obtained through an open records request, former state budget chief Debbie Dlugolenski Alford suggested that Barge take the matter to the State Board of Education.

 

 

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