JCPS: Debt owed by former PRP principal has been repaid - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS: Debt owed by former PRP principal has been repaid

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The former principal of Pleasure Ridge Park High School has repaid Jefferson County Public Schools nearly $12,000 in unauthorized expenses.

David Johnson, who retired June 30 following a district investigation into expenditures of school activity funds under his watch, “no longer has an outstanding balance with the district,” JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said Thursday.

Jackey wouldn’t say whether Johnson repaid the money himself or if the funds were deducted from payroll.

Johnson announced his retirement in May in the wake of a JCPS investigative report that accused him of treating himself to luxurious accommodations, meals and car rentals at the expense of PRP High School. The report found a “lack of ethical conduct and gross mismanagement of funds.”

At the time, JCPS accounting director Eddie Muns said the district would not pursue criminal charges but that the expectation was that Johnson would reimburse JCPS before he retired.

Johnson, who has previously accused the district of railroading him in its investigation, could not be reached for comment Thursday. His attorney, William Walsh, said Johnson declined to comment.

In a previous interview with WDRB News, Johnson denied any intentional wrongdoing. He said no tax dollars were spent, he did not feel his expenditures were “excessive” and he had never been told that spending money from the school’s activity funds was a problem before, that it was a “common practice” across the district.

The trouble involving Johnson was disclosed in a December report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability that found he had failed to properly document more than $202,000 in school expenses. State investigators also said Johnson had used the school’s activity fund and credit card for questionable purchases, including a $1,900 stay at an oceanfront condo in Myrtle Beach, S.C. before a 2011 baseball tournament.

The district’s investigation, released May 15, found “many examples of financial … misconduct or wrongdoing.”

It confirmed the state’s concern of Johnson’s spending involving two trips to Myrtle Beach, as well as other trips to New Orleans, Chicago and Lexington. The JCPS report also said Johnson and staff “double-dipped” by receiving reimbursement for a federal grant for expenses they did not personally incur.

JCPS investigators also found a deficit of more than $56,000 in PRP’s adult-activity fund – money they said was inappropriately used for staff holiday gifts, staff clothing, food for the office and personal trips.

In a March 28 letter to JCPS’ attorney, Walsh explained the reasoning behind each of the 14 accusations against Johnson.

Walsh wrote that Johnson "hardly treated himself to luxurious vacations and amenities" as the district alleges. In fact, he wrote, given “the types of accommodations often provided for traveling District employees, the amounts paid” for by Johnson “were relatively modest.”

The money Johnson used was from an “adult activity fund” and spent according to the district's rules.

Walsh wrote that “it may be fair” to decide that such expenditures should not be permitted while there is a deficit in the adult activity fund.

“This, however, has not been the case before and it is not fair to punish or condemn Dave Johnson for doing something he had every reason to think was acceptable heretofore,” Walsh wrote.

And Walsh said PRP is not the only school running a deficit in adult activity funds.

Also, while there is a dispute about how big of a deficit the school has in the adult activity account at PRP, “the spending in question ought to be evaluated in light of what a good school PRP has been under Dave Johnson.”

Kim Salyer has been acting as interim principal of PRP until the school’s site-based council selects someone to take over on a permanent basis.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at (502) 585-0839 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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