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School district parts with man accused of improper spending

A schools administrator accused of improperly spending nearly $50,000 on himself is no longer working for the district.

Hinds County School Board President Linda Laws confirmed Earl Burke’s departure to the Clarion Ledger , but wouldn’t say whether Burke was fired or resigned.

Burke was an assistant superintendent in charge of finances for the 5,600-student Hinds County district, which educates children in the county who live outside the Jackson and Clinton districts.

State Auditor Shad White’s office in August accused Burke of spending $33,000 on a car allowance for himself, in addition to his salary, without school board approval. Other questionable spending included a luxury hotel suite stay. The auditor’s office said Burke could face legal action over the spending, but declined further comment.

White’s office also says the district broke state law by purchasing $2 million in computers without taking bids. He says the district also didn’t regularly balance its bank accounts, that credit card purchases were made without improper authorization, and that credit card records were destroyed before they were reviewed.

Burke could not be reached for comment.

Superintendent Delesicia Martin said district officials are taking the audit report seriously and will present a corrective action plan to the auditor’s office next week. The audit recommended 22 changes, including better board oversight. Martin said some of the findings came as a surprise.

“My expectation is that employees will follow the rules,” Martin said, without mentioning Burke by name.

Auditors also recommended more internal controls over travel expenses, and said Burke should repay more than $18,000 in personal and travel expenses not authorized by the board or superintendent.

In one case, auditors said Burke spent $576 for a hotel in Jackson during a conference, even though he lives in nearby Clinton. In another, he spent $1,325 on a hotel suite — more than the amount allowed by the school board. Another district employee stayed in a regular room, paying $616.


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