Board to discuss Becoats behind closed doors

Oct. 20, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

DURHAM – The school board will meet behind closed doors Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss Superintendent Eric Becoats’ use of a school district-issued credit card and his pace of travel.

Becoats racked up more than $20,000 worth of charges on the card during a 12-month span beginning June 2012.

School board chairwoman Heidi Carter called the meeting last week, expressing concern about Becoats’ use of the credit card and his extensive travel.

Carter has said the board needs to ensure that every dollar spent in the school district benefit students.

Last week, it was unclear whether Becoats’ travel to numerous professional meetings was properly approved by Carter as spelled out in the superintendent’s contract.

School officials said employees are required to complete a business travel form detailing travel plans and the reason for the trip.

Carter said she cannot recall signing any such form for Becoats and no one has been able to provide her with a copy of such form with her signature.

Still, Carter couldn’t say definitively that she had never signed a business travel form for Becoats.

“I don’t ever remember being presented with one of those,” Carter said last week. “I could be wrong, but no one has been able to find one on record.”

Carter does recall, however, signing leave forms for Becoats on which he noted that the requested absence was for professional development.

She said the meeting will give the superintendent a chance to discuss strengthening the process authorizing Becoats’ travel, which she contends should be the same as other employees in the district.

Also, Carter said Becoats’ travel needs to be well-documented and have a clear purpose that benefits the school district.

Meanwhile, Carter has suspended Becoats’ use of the credit card and recently denied two of the superintendent’s request for travel.

Credit card records obtained by The Herald-Sun show that Becoats charged more than $20,000 on a school district-issued credit card over the span of 12 months, mostly for travel to out-of-state professional conferences, hotel stays, meals, including appreciation dinners for school district employees and lunches for his executive leadership team.

The school district issued Becoats a SunTrust Bank credit card with a $10,000 limit.

The monthly balances on the card during the period examined ranged from several hundred dollars to a few thousand, and are paid in full each month.