Officials with the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind spent almost $10,000 on inappropriate travel expenses within a three-year period, according to an Arizona auditor general’s report.
Most of the expenses incurred in violation of state policy were by Superintendent Robert Hill, who was under investigation by the state for burgeoning travel expenses.
Auditors also reviewed the school’s trust fund expenditures but found no wrongdoing.
In April, the state revealed it was investigating Hill for the travel expenses, as well as a possible conflict of interest with former ASDB Governing Board President Bernhardt Jones.
Hill was placed on administrative leave last month in a separate investigation involving employee complaints against him, although a report cleared him of any unlawful behavior.
Hill was unavailable for comment, but acting Superintendent Bill Koehler said the school was in the process of scheduling training for its employees.
The auditor general’s report reviewed in-state and out-of-state travel.
State auditors reviewed 20 randomly selected travel expenditures, along with expenses reported on the state’s accounting system from July 1, 2010, to March 31 of this year
The report found school officials spent $9,637, with Hill accounting for about $8,700 of those costs.
Most of the money was spent on excessive lodging, unnecessary transportation, ineligible meals and other inappropriate travel costs.
In the report, auditors said most of Hill’s expenses lacked supporting documents to indicate how the travel complied with the state’s policy.
For example, ASDB paid for lodging before and after conferences, which was against state policy because there was no legitimate business purpose for the additional travel days.
The report referred to a Conference for Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf in Hawaii. Hill stayed an extra night in Hawaii, as well as an additional night in Phoenix, which cost the school an extra $277.
The school also reimbursed the superintendent $48 for meals during those travel days, although those meals were ineligible for reimbursement.
For unnecessary transportation, auditors said the school often paid for car rentals and taxi fares when hotels and conferences offered free shuttles and other more economical modes of transportation.
In Austin, Texas, Hill rented a car for $315 and paid $60 in parking fees during a conference, although the conference center, hotel and restaurants were in walking distance, the report said.
Auditors also found the school paid $550 for late registration fees for a Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference in Washington, D.C.
ASDB officials told auditors that travel was not always well-planned and employees were not always aware of the state’s travel policy requirements.
The report issued several recommendations, including supporting travel expenses with proper documents, reimbursing only the actual cost meals and paying lodging costs only when necessary for state business.
Auditors also urged school officials to avoid late fees.
Many of ASDB’s teachers, interpreters and other employees travel extensively, especially throughout the state, Koehler said.
The school has regional offices Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Yuma and Holbrook.
“We want to make sure we get the training to correct this as quickly as possible,” he said.