Report: Columbus School Superintendent Liddell used district resources for party

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Columbus School Superintendent Martha Liddell used school resources — including funds and staff — for personal use in throwing a party during the Christmas holidays, according to a published report.

The Commercial Dispatch reports that documents it obtained in a Freedom of Information request showed the school district was billed for $259 for food that was served during the Dec. 23, 2012, party. In addition, two school district employees worked a total of 16.5 hours resulting in pay of $188.

Liddell hosted the party at the Trotter Convention Center. Liddell told the newspaper the party was a “personal event” for her friends, family and business acquaintances. In addition to her role as superintendent, Liddell owns a grant-writing company, Success Makers Associates.

“It was a private event. That’s all I can say on that matter,” she said.

The newspaper reported it obtained emails sent between Liddell and Aramark representatives coordinating the catering for the event. Aramark handles food service for the Columbus Municipal School District.

In an email sent by Liddell to Aramark representatives Thomas Collins and Sandra Pegues on Dec. 9, 2012, the superintendent listed the food items required to feed 100 guests.

On Dec. 12, Liddell sent an email to Pegues informing her of a change of the event’s date and location and confirming the menu. In the email, Liddell asked that the workers arrive at 5 p.m. on Dec. 23 to set up the food.

Pegues sent an email to Liddell on Dec. 19 confirming the time and place and a billing amount of $150.

Liddell responded saying, “Awesome. Bill me end of January please.”

The newspaper reported when it filed the FOIA request asking about the school district workers, accountant for federal programs and support services Holly Rogers said the workers were paid through a catering account line through Child Nutrition, a federal program funded by the state.

The Dispatch obtained a copy of a check dated Jan. 31, 2012 written by Liddell for $150. The memo on the check read “catering.”

Liddell told the newspaper she first learned of the labor costs when she read the FIOA request on Tuesday.

Liddell said she reimbursed the district for $188 on Wednesday with the check was made payable to the Office of Child Nutrition.

“It appears from what I saw on the information that the Aramark people did use employees but I wasn’t aware of that. I’m going to have to talk to the supervisor,” Liddell

  • Martha Liddell

    Message to the Editor:

    This report is inaccurate and biased with unsubstantiated claims. The facts are Columbus Schools from 2009-2013 hired a private catering company (Aramark) under a previous Superintendent to manage food operations. Because Aramark is a nationally recognized food and catering services vendor, community members, employees and private clients often contracted with the external director of the catering company as standard operating procedure to provide catering services. The company billed the entity and Aramark employees prepared events using company purchased commodities. If there was an occasion or occasions where the director of Aramark did not follow the appropriate catering procedure, this person is at fault not the customer who pay invoices as billed by the catering company. To be clear, I was invoiced as many other employees, related clients, community members were when Aramark was hired for catering. I paid the invoices in full thus fulfilling my obligation as a customer. This fact is important; because it shows that I did not use district resources for a private party intentionally or unintentionally. I hired a catering company that routinely does catering in their business. This was standard operating procedure for 4 years.

    Posted by: Dr. Martha Liddell