Whether it is tax money, investments or donations, if an official or agency is entrusted with funds, the public is depending on the safe and reasonable management of those funds. When someone has responsibility for managing public money but is accused of using it for personal reasons, he or she may face charges of public corruption. However, sometimes, there are misunderstandings about the purpose and rules regarding the use of public funds.
Recently, a California charter school came under fire and its director under scrutiny when a review of the school's finances revealed unusual charges on a credit card. The charges totaled about $15,000 from various restaurants, including purchases for beer and wine. School officials explained that the meals were offered to the staff as signs of appreciation and as morale builders.
County officials say the meals, some totaling close to $800, were an excessive and inappropriate use of funds intended to improve the educational offerings in the school, such as purchasing equipment and text books, paying salaries and maintaining the school property. The school director defended the staff breakfasts and dinners by pointing to charter school exemptions for the purchase of alcohol. Additionally, the board of directors accused the county office of misunderstanding its authority to oversee the way the school spends its funding.
No public corruption charges have been filed yet, but authorities note that California officials have been criminally charged in the past for similarly misusing public funds. Facing such accusations can be devastating to one's career and future, not to mention the potential for severe penalties if a conviction results. Those accused of misusing public funds would benefit from the advice of an attorney as early as possible in the investigation.