Prince George school board president’s payment of legal fees questioned

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Edward Burroughs III, a county council member and former school board member, has asked the attorney and state inspector general of Maryland to investigate school funds used to pay attorney fees of Prince George School Board President Juanita Miller to remain on the board.

The county school board uncovered the expenses last week after bills were discovered showing fees paid to Miller’s attorneys who fought her with the state board of education for misconduct in office, neglect of duty and incompetence. Members of the Prince George School Board said they were unaware of the payments and disapproved of them.

The invoices, first reported by Fox 5 and obtained by The Post, show that at least $32,280 in school funds were directed to MarcusBonsib LLC – the law firm representing Miller, and appear to have been approved by the Vice-Chairman Sonya. Williams. One of the invoices is initialed “SW” with “OK to pay” written by it.

Miller did not comment on payments for the legal fees. In a message on Friday, Miller said she had been busy working during early voting and Election Day, but would “likely release a statement” now with more flexibility in her schedule. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

“There is a lot of information that has not been shared, and so if the media investigated it, they would find out the information,” he added. Williams said in an interview at Thursday’s meeting. “But because it’s a legal matter, I’m not privy to discuss it.” She declined to answer further questions about the bills.

Alsobrooks Calls on Prof. George’s Board of Education Chairman Miller to Resign

Burroughs’ letter to state investigators, dated Nov. 4, said that Miller and Williams’ apparent actions were “a clear violation” of a board policy that prohibits conduct considered fraud, waste or abuse. The policy defines fraud as “all acts for personal gain, without limitation” and mentions “unauthorized signing of documents” or “invoices”. He also cited another board policy prohibiting board members from taking action on behalf of the board unless formally approved by the board.

“The apparent embezzlement of tens of thousands of taxpayer funds” must be investigated, Burroughs wrote, and if proven, “those responsible must be held accountable and taxpayer funds reimbursed.” .

The district attorney and the education inspector general did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The board does not have a policy that prevents it from covering members’ legal fees, said Meghan Gebreselassie, a spokesperson for the school system. The school board has submitted all required documents and clearances to process an invoice, Gebreselassie wrote in an email Friday. “It’s strictly a matter of the Board of Education and not an administrative matter,” she said.

School board members discussed Miller’s legal fee payments privately during Thursday night’s board meeting, two people with direct knowledge of the meeting said. The people, who declined to be named because the action took place behind closed doors, said discussions over payments were ongoing. The issue was not discussed publicly at Thursday’s meeting, although some board members argued it should have been.

The charges brought by the Maryland State Board of Education against Miller in May stem in part from a complaint against her alleging misconduct by a group of current and former board members. Miller also declined a request to resign from her seat by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who named Miller chair of the board last year.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28 regarding the charges brought against Miller by the state Board of Education. The ongoing legal fight could drag on until at least Dec. 21, when new state legislation is expected to go into effect, allowing the county school board to choose its own leaders.

Thursday’s meeting was the last for Williams, who did not seek re-election this year.

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