Unlike many other states, New York has a State Comptroller who audits both public schools and charter schools. The latest audit of a fast-growing charter in Hempstead, New York, found that executives were charging large expenses to the school’s credit card without documentation. 

The Hempstead district is about 70% free & reduced-price lunch, overwhelmingly Hispanic and African American, only 2% white. It is a segregated and low-income district.

John Hildebrand of Newsday writes:

Five senior managers at one of Long Island’s fastest-growing public charter schools charged more than $60,000 in credit-card expenses without receipts or itemizations required by their school’s own rules, state auditors reported.

The state’s review of spending practices at the Academy Charter School in Hempstead found that 17% of credit-card transactions sampled, totaling $36,329, were approved for payment without supporting receipts, auditors said. Another 12% of sampled purchases, totaling $25,342, had receipts that were not itemized.

Overall, credit-card purchases made on behalf of the academy totaled $496,970 during the 2017-18 academic year, according to the state comptroller’s office, a watchdog agency that conducted the audit. The school’s total annual budget was $18.9 million…

The Academy’s written credit-card rules require that users explain the purpose of each transaction and provide a detailed receipt, not just a summary, according to the comptroller’s report.

This often did not happen, as in the case of one school official who charged $1,476 for a meal, describing it only as a “group lunch.” Academy leaders later said the event was a luncheon for teachers attending fall training.

Card purchases, auditors said, included $5,590 for furniture that did not have an itemized invoice attached, $1,576 to a party rental vendor for what was described only as a “school event,” and five gift cards for about $550 each. School officials listed gifts as teacher appreciation awards, without naming recipients or providing proof that the school’s board of trustees had approved the awards.

School managers also failed to adequately document travel expenses for out-of-town conferences, auditors said. They checked 119 card charges for travel expenses totaling $23,920 and found that 40% lacked receipts. This included 29 charges for lodging and air travel.