P-cards come up again in Grayslake district

Some questions arose about employee procurement card use at Grayslake Elementary District 46 as board members Wednesday night discussed whether to post monthly expenses online.

Commonly known as p-cards, the program is a way for employees to pay for business-related expenses. Many governments issue what’s similar to a debit card to the employees, who often have varying spending limits.

Last week, brief discussion about p-cards occurred at an advisory finance committee meeting. Carbone and board members Ray Millington and Shannon Smigielski also serve on the advisory finance panel.

At Wednesday evening’s meeting, M. Lynn Barkley, the district’s assistant superintendent of teaching, learning and assessment, said business meals are an allowed p-card expense. She provided an explanation after Smigielski said there appeared to be “a lot” of meals in $400,000 of p-card expenses in the last academic year.

District 46 already is posting check journals on its website showing individuals and businesses getting paid with public money. Line-item p-card expenses would be added to the district’s financial offerings on its website if the board agrees to go in that direction.

Government watchdogs have raised concerns about p-cards. One of those watchdogs, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability executive director Ralph Martire, says it would be easy under this system to make an acquisition for the home that looks like an office purchase.

Superintendent Ellen Correll said the district’s business office scrutinizes p-card charges, and inappropriate purchases must be repaid by an employee.

Meanwhile, Carbone didn’t get a chance to lead a discussion on a transparency policy earlier in Wednesday night’s session. Board member Susan Facklam asked for more time to review a “white paper” Carbone issued about transparency.

Millington, who is the board president, described the transparency document as touching on topics ranging from preservation of records to how Freedom of Information Act requests are handled. No copies of the transparency white paper were available to the public at the meeting.

Carbone voiced his frustration at not discussing his open government ideas.

“It’s been going on for six months,” Carbone said. “What’s another month or two?”