Steakhouse Dinner not Unique–Letter to Editor

Someone has done his homework:
This letter is in response to “An expensive dinner” Chronicle Sound Off (March 23, 2013), regarding the Batavia School Board Members’ and Administrators’ $1,929.75 dinner at Morton’s steakhouse, including a $57 steak dinner and five $15 lobster bisques.
I have reviewed the purchase card records for one year’s spending by Batavia District 101 employees and this “Steakgate dinner” [1] only represents the tip of the iceberg. In one twelve month period I have records[2] of over 200 purchases of food from almost every restaurant, bagel shop, donut shop, and coffee shop in the area. For example, on June 8, 2012 there are purchases from the Tribella Bar and Grill totaling $314.12 for beverages and “4 Shrimp Cocktail $44.00; 4 Brushetta $30.00; 4 Calamari $34.00; 3 Artichoke App $25.50; 2 Salmon $40.00; 1 Fox Valley Top Sirloin Steak $22.00; 1 8oz Filet, $28.00; 2 Salmon $40.00; 3 Tiramisu $16.50” and $59.12 in tax and tip[3]. There is a bill from the Texas Roadhouse in Naperville with four kinds of appetizers, a Big Hoss bone in ribeye steak for $19.99, 3-12oz New York Strip Steaks at $16.29 each, and a sirloin hearty cut for $14.29, totaling $144.23[4]. On Saturday, March 3, 2012, at 7:08 p.m., ten hamburgers were bought on room service at a Lombard Hotel at $12.50 each, totaling $125 before tip.[5] Questions asked regarding the purpose of these specific expenditures were never answered.
Over the summer when students were off, and while administrators were crafting the 11% tax hike to be passed at the September meeting, two employees from the Administration Office went to local coffee and donut shops and caterers 10 times with bills as high as $459 on one trip and more than $100 each on two other trips. These purchases were made on the employees’ District issued purchase cards. Also during the summer, a high level administrator made two trips to Starbucks in Aurora with bills over $25 each time. There are bills from Hooters and a Brewhouse.
These expenditures indicate district employees are living high on the hog while food pantries can’t keep their shelves stocked and taxpayers are cutting back and doing without and losing their homes because of high taxes (there have been over 300 foreclosures in Batavia and the Sheriff is asking for another employee to handle the continuing increase in foreclosures[6]).
In the “Lobstergate” article[7], Dr. Barshinger is quoted as saying: “…the district was caught off-guard when a dinner traditionally paid for by a district vendor ended up going straight to the district expense budget when the vendors backed off this year “. The question is why is the District taking any gratuities from a vendor let alone an almost $2,000 dinner tab? We need a serious review of all policies and procedures and audits for fraud, waste, and abuse in all School Districts, including Batavia District 101 especially since the regular “clean”[8] audits don’t pick up these discrepancies or account for “sloppy record keeping”.
Carl Dinwiddie
Batavia Resident & Taxpayer

[1] “Daily Herald”, “FOCUS”, by Dave Heun, March 5, 2013
[2] Batavia school District, FOIA of 12 month Purchase Card Purchases
[3] 2 itemized receipts from Tribella Bar and Grill, 1900 Mill Street, Batavia, June 5, 2012, 8:05 and 8:19 p.m. totaling $314.12 including $59.12 in taxes and tips.
[4] Receipt totaling $144.23 from Texas Roadhouse, 2856 Patriot Lane, Naperville, Il. 60596, 12/10/2011 at 8:30 p.m.
[5] Receipt from the Westin Hotel in Lombard totaling $170.42 on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.
[6] “Beacon News”, March 24, 2013, “Sheriff wants to add staff to handle rise in Kane foreclosures” by Linda Girardi
[7] “Daily Herald”, “FOCUS”, by Dave Heun, March 5, 2013
[8] “Beacon News”, March 24, 2013, “East Board President: Clean Audit doesn’t give whole picture picture”
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