Columbus School Officials Bill Taxpayers For Restaurant Dining


UPDATED: Thursday November 15, 2012 6:34 PM

At Columbus City Schools, when people work, they often eat on your dime.

The school board work session meeting last week served lasagna from Shane’s Gourmet Market.

Lasagna in tin containers may not seem like the height of luxury, but Watchdog 10 has learned the district's ringing up some pricey tabs to feed staff and administrators.

And it's not for boxed lunches.

Watchdog 10 uncovered that the district has repeatedly approved meals from places like the Cap City Diner.

For example, in August of last year, West Broad Street Elementary sent 50 staff members to the Franklin Park Conservatory. The purchase order says they went for an "Opening Staff Meeting." Cap City Diner, a restaurant owned by the Cameron Mitchell restaurant company catered the event. The total bill for taxpayers was $1,727. 

Another district purchase order listed City Barbeque. Administrators approved $2,500 to spend there on professional development this summer. A district spokesman claims the actual cost was much lower, just under $600.

A spokesman for the district said it was forced to buy from one of those restaurants because the Franklin Park Conservatory required it to use only certain vendors.

The scenic views of the Scioto River also cost taxpayers. Watchdog 10 found a purchase order which approves Brookhaven High School for a "staff retreat" at Confluence Park.  The total cost approved was $3,400.

Watchdog 10 took the findings to the steps of the school district headquarters to see what the people who paid the bills have to say.

“They should pay for it themselves, if that's something they want to do,” said Paticia Cooper.

“I used be an auditor myself and I would have flagged that and investigated more,” added Andre Runion.

Columbus school officials said they are trying to invest in their staff.

Watchdog 10 sat down with district spokesman Jeff Warner. Watchdog 10 asked if this was the way a district considering going to the public with another levy should spend.

“We are trying to be very good stewards of the public's money and part of our investment is investing in our staff and insuring our staff have a great start to the school year,” said Warner.

Warner argued that $1,700 spent at a Cameron Mitchells restaurant was low if you look at the per person cost. Warner said the spending is okay because it came from grant money.

The question Watchdog 10 asked is whether the grant would allow spending that could still be considered a waste.

“That really wouldn't be my call,” said Warner.

But one taxpayer told Watchdog 10 that it was “crazy.”

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