The former transportation director for Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland pleaded guilty June 30 to a misdemeanor charge of misconduct in office.
Todd Watkins is accused of conspiring with Charles Ewald, then the assistant director of transportation, in a scheme that enabled Ewald to steal more than $320,000 while failing to manage a contract for school bus purchases and the use of purchasing cards.
An Investigation Leads to Transportation Department Changes
As School Bus Fleet reported in October 2022, after Watkins and Ewald left MCPS under a cloud of possible financial impropriety, a state audit report showed that transportation management personnel used an “off the books” account to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on goods and services that were supposedly on behalf of the school district.
Some reported purchases included gift cards and furniture shipped to the home of a management employee.
The investigation led to changes at MCPS, including:
- Selection of a new vendor for purchasing buses.
- Revising internal structures to monitor finance and procurement.
- Reviewing purchasing card transactions.
- Retraining staff who hold purchasing cards.
- Evaluating employee access to purchasing cards.
- Decreasing limits on purchasing cards.
Legal Fallout for Former Transportation Directors
Ewald pleaded guilty in May to a felony theft charge and misdemeanor misconduct in office. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced in September.
Watkins, who is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 11, could receive probation or as much as six months in jail.
Said John McCarthy, a prosecutor on the case, according to MyMCM: “These convictions are the result of a thorough investigation on the part of the Montgomery County Police Department. We thank the detectives for their diligent work in this matter after being alerted to the possibility of fraudulent activity by Montgomery County Public Schools.”