Former Nash County Superintendent Shelton Jefferies

Former Nash County Public Schools Superintendent Shelton Jefferies

(The Center Square) – A former North Carolina school system superintendent misused public funds and the system's vehicle, a state audit released Tuesday shows.

According to the audit by the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor, former Nash County Public Schools Superintendent Shelton Jefferies violated his contract and the system's spending policies, resulting in $45,690 in unauthorized and questionable expenses.

The state auditor's office conducted the audit after receiving a hotline tip. State auditors said Jefferies was able to misuse the funds because of a lack of oversight by the Nash County Board of Education and the chief financial officer. They are calling for a review and stricter enforcement of spending policies and recoupment of the funds from Jefferies.

"In addition to these expenses, the superintendent's violation of his contract, policies, and procedures fostered an environment where such violations are acceptable," auditors wrote.

The report showed Jefferies, who led the school system from January 2016 to August 2019, improperly used his procurement card, meant for school-related expenses. He used the school system vehicle for personal travel and violated the system's travel policy, the audit found. He also bought gas and rented a vehicle that went beyond the scope of his travel allowance.

Jefferies made 249 purchases, totaling $22,045, that raised questions, the audit said. He did not provide an itemized receipt for 198 purchases that amounted to $18,432. Another 45 purchases were itemized but were not documented to support proper use. Six of Jefferies' purchases, totaling $127, were just not allowed, auditors wrote.

Jefferies also went over his travel allowance by $7,127, and he did not submit the required travel documents for approval. Auditors found Jefferies bought gas near his home but submitted the receipts for workshop or conference travel. Auditors said Jefferies admitted using the school system vehicle to visit his children in the Charlotte area, hours away from Nash County.

Attorneys for the school board said they were made aware of Jefferies' unauthorized spending in spring 2019, and the board directed them to investigate.

Attorneys provided the board with a report April 1, 2019. The board then pressured Jefferies for answers. He resigned Aug. 2, 2019. The attorneys said the interim superintendent and new chief financial officer later implemented changes to the procurement card process.

Officials reduced the number of procurement cards available for use from 20 cards to five cards and decreased the spending limit, among other things. They also eliminated the school system vehicle from current Nash County Superintendent Steve Ellis' contract.

"The Board takes seriously the findings of the State Auditor and believes it has put in place robust protections to ensure that all purchases made through procurement cards are adequately supported and constitute an appropriate use of school system's resources," school board attorneys said in a written response to the audit.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.