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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012

New interim superintendent misused district credit card


COLUMBUS -- The man who will at least temporarily succeed state Superintendent Stan Heffner was caught using a school district credit card for personal expenses when he was superintendent of Perry Local Schools in Lake County, in the state's northeast, in 2010.

Michael Sawyers, a deputy state superintendent who was hired at the department of education in 2010, will be acting superintendent as of 5 p.m. Friday.

He used a district credit card to purchase "food, alcohol, gas, a scenic tour and souvenirs" worth $858.19, according to the meeting minutes for Perry's board of education from May, 2010.

The minutes also say Mr. Sawyers "purchased gift cards during a band trip to Disney for students and chaperones to use for meals and … used a gift card for personal use."

Mr. Sawyers admitted it was a mistake and repaid the school district, according to the minutes. He was reprimanded but was not fired for the action, which he attributed to getting his personal and school credit card mixed up.

"They're the same color … and I just wasn't paying attention," Mr. Sawyers told the Columbus Dispatch in explaining that the purchases occurred over a period of two years. "I might've been on the phone when I bought something and I just didn't look."

The alcohol was a bottle of wine purchased while at dinner with a Perry board member that was not removed from the food bill, Mr. Sawyers said.

The Perry board tightened its credit card policies after the Sawyers incident.

Suanne Sines, a Perry school board member who was president at the time, called the controversy surrounding Mr. Sawyers' credit card use "an ugly time for Perry schools" and said "in some people's minds" his mistake was "huge."

Mr. Sawyers said he disclosed the infractions to the state board during the hiring process in 2010.

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