Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell is well-compensated. He receives an annual salary of at least $140,000, disability insurance, health insurance, a $5,000 annuity per year, 20 paid vacation days, 12 sick days, three personal days, retirement benefits and more.
Just take a look at his contract, via the school board’s website:
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On top of the compensation mentioned above, Powell receives personal expenses when traveling, mileage reimbursement and a $650 per month vehicle allowance. That’s despite auditors telling the district he may only receive mileage or the allowance, not both.
Note: According to a recent audit (Warning: External PDF Link), the board hasn’t properly documented leave, reimbursement or travel and nothing has changed since the report.
Specific clause from the contract:
f. Expenses: The Board shall allow the Superintendent mileage reimbursed for the use of the Superintendent’s personal vehicle for travel completed for business purposes both inside and outside of the District at the rate adopted by the Board for all certified employees. The Superintendent shall also be reimbursed for actual personal expenses incidental to the travel when an itemized statement of travel and expense is submitted to an(sic) approved by the Board. The Board shall provide the Superintendent with an allowance of six-hundred fifty dollars ($650) per month as a vehicle allowance.
The kicker there? He drives an old Lexus worth maybe $7,000. He’s been superintendent for something like 35 months, which means he’s received more than $22,000. He’s pocketing a hefty sum each month.
Powell also receives $250 per month in the form of a technology reimbursement:
i. Technology Reimbursement: In consideration of the technology requirements of Superintendents, including cellular phone service and computer equipment and access during normal and irregular working hours, the board shall provide the Superintendent with an allowance of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per month. This is in addition to the normal computer equipment provided to the Superintendent from the District, such as a desktop computer and walkthrough devices.
Auditors asked how the allowance was the same each month but we’ve heard nothing more about it.
Why bring this up? Because spending seems to be out-of-control at Montgomery County Schools.
Not the illegal nepotism, not the $300,000 no-bid furniture contract ignored by Adam Edelen, not paying staff to participate in audits, not dropping $30,000 to cover up a scandal, not the expenses related to the Title IX investigation, not costs related to testing scandals, not thousands of dollars for fake awards, not the Jim Dusso firing mess (likely not yet billed), not the Topix fishing expedition, not the various other lawsuits for wrongful termination and retaliation (likely not yet billed), not costs associated with coaching scandals, not wasted money on misspelled billboards and their do-overs. None of that.
The big issue: legal fees/insurance.
We hear Montgomery County’s insurance carrier is paying legal fees related to Powell’s Union County OEA and EPSB investigations that cost more than $500,000 (the $500K figure was Powell’s, some board members tell us the figure is easily more than $150,000), the EPO mess and even a 2012 school bus accident that his attorney is handling. Why a personal attorney would handle a bus accident instead of insurance, we’ll never know.
Unfortunately, officials with the district won’t or refuse to discuss costs.
The previous school board authorized Powell to use a private attorney — the same folks he used in Union County — instead of the board attorney. English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP is the firm. We’ve compiled several public and leaked documents to highlight some of the legal billing. Records A were provided by members of the school board. Records B were obtained via records requests. There are quite a few discrepancies, as you can see, which no doubt leads to serious board confusion on the spending front.
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The problem with all of this? Some language from Powell’s contract:
6. Indemnity: The Board agrees that to the extent insurance or similar coverage is afforded to the Board, the Board shall defend, hold harmless, and indemnify the Superintendent from all demands, claims, suits, actions, and legal proceedings brought against the Superintendent in his individual capacity or in his official capacity as agent and employee of the District provided same arose while the Superintendent was acting within the scope of his employment.
If Montgomery County is paying his bills from Union County? That’s a violation of his contract and stinks to high heavens of potential fraud.
And if those billings on the spreadsheet and all the other items mentioned are being paid? Hoo boy, scandalous.