Grant spending under scope

Federal dollars intended to help some Augusta pupils might instead have been used to pay employee salaries.

The possible misuse of grant money is being investigated internally by local school officials, Richmond County Board of Education Vice President Joe Scott said.

Carl D. Perkins grants are meant to benefit students in vocational and technical education. Mr. Scott said the board is investigating whether the money went toward paying salaries in the Career Technical and Agricultural Education Department, and if it did, whether it was deliberate or a "misunderstanding."

"Really, I don't know if I'm supposed to be talking about this right now," the board vice president said, echoing the sentiment of many on the board.

The investigation involves the employee responsible for the payroll of the department and the way in which employees were paid, Mr. Scott said.

The specifics of the allegations - how much money is involved and whether the investigation is of a criminal nature - are unclear.

Some school board members did not know about the investigation, while others wouldn't comment, saying it was a matter first raised in a closed-door meeting last month.

Helen Minchew said she would not publicly discuss anything involving closed meetings, and Alex Howard, the chairman of the personnel committee, said he knew nothing of any investigation.

Messages left for Interim Superintendent James Thompson weren't immediately returned.

Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education, said his department is interested in reviewing any allegations of wrongdoing involving programs it funds or administers, but it is not now conducting an investigation.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney have not been contacted about conducting an investigation.

The school board is expected to take up the issue tonight when it meets behind closed doors as part of its monthly business meeting.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT:

The Richmond County Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. today at 864 Broad St.