In September of last year, it was revealed that DPS Board Member Andrea Merida had charged over $12,000 of personal expenses – ranging from fast food to phone bills to flowers – to her district provided and taxpayer funded credit card.
Merida at first refused to pay back any of the $7,500 she spent beyond her $5,000 allotment before she begrudgingly agreed to reimburse the district.
Now, over 5 months later, the question remains: has Andrea Merida paid back her overages?
Merida claimed to have repaid the district in October and that her repayment was “rejected.” That claim was summarily dismissed by Board President Nate Easley and other DPS administrators.
Merida wasn’t pressed on the issue again until last month, when the Denver newspaper editorial board again asked that she make amends and repay DPS.
Instead of pledging to reimburse the taxpayers, Merida instead took issue with the paper’s observation of two recently-incurred charges for Netflix and Xbox Live.
The board member claimed that those charges were “fraudulent” and the credit card company agreed, reversing the transactions and crediting that money back to the district.
In defense of those fraudulent charges, Merida went on to say that:
Even though board policy does not require me to make any payments to the district, I am covering my own normally-allowed expenses and have brought spending down to zero. By the time my first term is over, the district will have saved at least $15,400. I do this because I respect the sacrifice the taxpayers of my district have made, though the record shows that past board members neither curbed their own spending nor improved the policy. This board did, unanimously. It is truly unfortunate that this situation has been spun for political gain, while our district buckles under the weight of risky investment schemes that drain millions in unbudgeted dollars from our classrooms.
It’s very admirable that Merida is covering her “normally-allowed expenses” and that she’s “brought spending down to zero.” Neither of those statements, however, answer the one question at the heart of this whole ordeal: has Merida paid the district back yet?
Merida is using very carefully crafted language to imply that she’s done everything required of her – and more – in an effort to be a transparent and responsive elected official. The district will have saved $15,400 by the end of her term, after all! Absent in all of Merida’s statements, of course, is the one stating that she’s fulfilled her September pledge to repay the school district.
If Merida is serious about putting this story behind her and if she’s tired of the “situation being spun for political purposes” then the solution is very simple: pay back her much-lambasted expenses and make an absolute statement communicating that those expenses have been paid in full.
Until Merida does both of those things, this issue will continue to linger and further pollute her term on the Board. She made a rather unequivocal pledge – after equivocating, of course – to repay the district and all she needs to do to put this entire issue behind her is make that repayment. Maybe she has repaid it. If that’s the case, then instead of writing about “respect for the sacrifices of the taxpayer” all she has to say is that she’s fulfilled her obligation.
Unless she does, however, all of her complaints about “political spin” look little less than political posturing.