Audit report finds unlawful spending by Hinds Co. School District and employee

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The Hinds County School District is in hot water with the State Auditor’s office.

The report found major unlawful spending and poor keeping of the school district’s financial records.

Auditing public school district offices is something new happening under State Auditor Shad White.

The Hinds County School District is responsible for over 5,500 students and nearly 500 teachers with a $72 million budget, the audit found Hinds County Public School District hasn’t been safely handling its finances.

“I would call them alarming practices of how they’re spending money,” Auditor White stated.

In the 2019 Audit Report, Shad White’s office found 22 instanceswhere the Hinds County School District failed to meet state law requirements monitoring its accounts.

“You got everything from issues involving one Assistant Superintendent and money that was being spent on him in a way that didn’t comply with the law,” Auditor White explained. “All the way to some book keeping practices that open the door for fraud in the future.”

Earl Burke, Hinds County Assistant Superintendent.

That Assistant Superintendent is Earl Burke who’s also the Chief Financial Officer. The report uncovered he charged over $18,000 to the districts credit cards and took travel reimbursements without school board approval.  

“I wanted to make sure that money that’s flowing through our public schools is going to the places it is legally required to go,” White continued. “I wanted to make sure the money is going to places it makes the biggest impact on teachers and students. Not on some misappropriated expenditure related to administration.”

For Earl Burke, those expenditures included nearly $4,000 in district money spent on luxury hotels, airfare and internet service while flying.

It also included $576 dollars on the district’s credit card to stay in a Jackson hotel for a conference when his house is next door in Clinton.

On another occasion, Burke spent an extra three nights at a conference in an executive floor room exceeding the travel amount approved by his board by $568.

“You’ve got employees where you just trust them to do the right thing without checking on them,” White told us. “You need to take a look now before we get there, so that we can straighten out spending practices and get money to where it’s supposed to be going.”

But the fraud also continued with Assistant Superintendent Burke also listing a car allowance without board approval receiving $6,000 a year to simply travel to and from work. He also spent nearly $2,000 of the district’s money to fuel his personal vehicle.

In response the Hinds County School District released statements acknowledging, “The district has been working diligently to address the issues outlined in the state audit report. We will be conducting a full review of policies, revising and financial training.”

Auditor White is now turning the report over to his legal team. It will investigate whether any arrests are necessary. For the full 16 page report on the Hinds County School District Office click here.

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