The Nash County Board of Education announced Thursday in a written statement that it has reached a settlement agreement with former Superintendent Shelton Jefferies in which Jefferies will pay back more than $30,000 of unallowed travel expenses he charged to the school district during his tenure.
The Telegram broke the story of the allegations of improper travel expenditures in April 2019. A resulting investigation by the school board led to Jefferies’ resignation in June of that year.
In June 2021, State Auditor Beth Wood released an audit report indicating the core truth of the findings. That audit report noted more than $45,000 of questionable expenses Jefferies had the school district pay.
“The results of our investigation found that the former superintendent of Nash County Public Schools violated his contract and multiple policies and procedures related to his procurement card and use of a school system vehicle. These violations resulted in $45,690 in unallowed and questionable expenses,” Wood said in her summary of the audit report.
The report also noted other financial irregularities at the school district level that needed to be corrected.
“The violations were undetected because of a lack of review and oversight by the former chairs of the school system’s board of education and the former chief finance officer,” the report said.
Wood recommended that the school board seek recompense from Jefferies for the $45,690 in unallowed and questionable expenses.
“The board should seek reimbursement from the former superintendent for expenses that lacked adequate documentation or were unallowed by his contract, policies and procedures,” Wood said in the report.
A letter sent just after the audit by Tharrington Smith, the law firm that represents the school board, stated that the school board intended to follow through with that advice. The settlement reached between Jefferies and the school district concludes the matter.
According to the statement released this week, Jefferies has provided receipts in the amount of $14,330.70 for some of the expenses and agreed to reimburse the school board in the amount of $30,324.92 for the remainder. Roughly $25,000 will be paid as part of the settlement. Jefferies already paid the other $5,324.92 to the school district.
This sum will be paid in full settlement of all claims, the statement said.
An investigation by the Telegram published in April 2019 revealed that Jefferies traveled more than 29,000 miles in a fleet vehicle belonging to the then-Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
This was in comparison with the 7,816 miles traveled by Jefferies in the fleet vehicle for the entire 2016-17 school year, indicating a change in pattern. After that, Jefferies’ mileage on the vehicle more than tripled each year in comparison to the first year he led the school district.
In addition, Jefferies was paid a $600-a-month travel allowance during his time in office, the Telegram reported.
Jefferies’ travel miles escalated at roughly the same time he purchased a family home in Huntersville near Charlotte while he was serving as superintendent of the school district. While the Telegram was not able to obtain evidence of where those miles were traveled since the school district indicated that it did not track that information, the article noted that driving the school district fleet vehicle to Huntersville each week could easily account for the extra 18,000 miles each year.
The state audit published earlier this year concluded that Jefferies had misused this travel benefit at the school district’s expense.
In the statement released by the school district, spokeswoman Chris Catalano said the school board is satisfied with the settlement.
“The Nash Board of Education believes this constitutes a reasonable conclusion to this matter and has accepted the $30,324.92 in exchange for a release of claims,” the statement said.
School board Chairman Franklin Lamm said in a later interview that board members felt it was important to follow through and correct the situation.
“We as a school board took the findings in the state audit seriously,” Lamm told the Telegram. “We corrected the other issues noted in the audit and sought to reclaim these funds. We want to serve as good stewards of the taxpayer’s money, and we are pleased with this outcome. If the school district money is not going to support the education of students, it is not being spent correctly.”