The head of the board of a charter school in Louisiana treated himself to some good meals using the school’s credit card.

A world away from his Central City school, where 97 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged, the head of a charter school board racked up $778 over six months at an upscale restaurant on St. Charles Avenue.

The Rev. Charles Southall III bought the meals with a credit card issued to Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy under his name. Monthly statements went not to the school, but to Southall’s church on Carondelet Street.

Southall spent $1,514 at restaurants in New Orleans and Baton Rouge in six months starting in July 2016. That’s $250 a month at establishments such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Cheesecake Bistro by Copeland’s and Le Pavillon hotel — all funded by the school.

Asked about the meals, Southall said, “They were lunches that were related to preparing to get a new school leader in.”

But Eileen Williams had been in charge of Harney since at least 2013 and continued until June 2017. Southall did not respond to follow-up questions.

The small school’s financial practices have drawn scrutiny from the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board. Auditors criticized the school’s one-man finance department and said the board should provide more oversight.
Last fall, the state Board of Ethics filed an official complaint against the school’s chief financial officer, Brent Washington Sr. The school paid him $54,500 on the side to do accounting work, which the ethics board contends broke the law.