A Nebraska school superintendent who bought wine and schnapps with a district credit card last year said Friday that he did so inadvertently.
Ravenna Public Schools Superintendent Dwaine Uttecht said he was out with other school administrators during Nebraska's annual Administrators Days conference in Kearney and didn't realize he charged the alcohol and a tip to the district card.
Uttecht said he reimbursed the district and has taken steps to address other purchasing concerns outlined in an Aug. 19 report by Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley.
The report alleges sloppy purchasing practices in the district about 30 miles west of Grand Island. District officials dispute some of the allegations. Foley got involved after receiving a complaint from “a concerned individual.”
According to the report, Uttecht in July 2012 made a $146.29 purchase with the card that included peach schnapps and Beringer chardonnay. A 20 percent gratuity was automatically added to the bill, and Uttecht added a $40 tip, it says.
Alcohol purchases are an inappropriate use of public funds, and the amount of the tip “appears to be excessive,” the report says.
Uttecht said he didn't realize the tip was included automatically, so he added one and signed the bill.
He also said that in such situations, the alcohol is normally kept on a separate tab and paid with personal funds.
The audit found no other instances of alcohol charged to the district in the 10 months it examined.
Foley, in the report, expressed other concerns about the district's money handling, including a lack of detailed receipts and what he deemed an improper approval process for certain expenditures. He also raised concerns about a petty cash fund and said the district had inappropriately paid sales taxes on purchases when it is exempt by law.
Uttecht said the matters in the auditor's report, while serious, did not involve misuse or misappropriation of funds. He said the concerns were not significant enough to trigger a full-blown state audit. The district is reviewing its procedures and will seek to recover the sales taxes, he said.