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Report: Former W.Va. education official misused funds in Va.

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By Eric Eyre
The Charleston Gazette

A former high-ranking administrator at the West Virginia Department of Education misused public funds and falsified travel records while working at a similar post in Virginia, according to a report released this week.

The Virginia State Inspector General’s report revealed that Tammy McGraw, who worked at the Virginia Department of Education before coming to West Virginia, received an oil painting from a Massachusetts company after awarding the firm an $850,000 no-bid contract.

McGraw also used state funds in Virginia to buy a $3,120 digital camera that she kept for herself at home.

West Virginia state schools Superintendent Michael Martirano hired McGraw as executive director of instructional technology last month, but fired her four days later after department officials and state school board members learned McGraw was being investigated for alleged wrongdoing at her previous job in Virginia.

McGraw, a Beckley native, has filed a grievance against department officials, seeking to get her job back in West Virginia.

On Tuesday, McGraw’s lawyer, John Wooton, said the Virginia inspector general’s report was “incomplete and inadequate.”

“Many things which explained and contradicted the findings were omitted, and the report appears to be written to cover them,” Wooton said in an email.

The inspector general found that McGraw violated Virginia purchasing laws by giving $1.9 million in business to companies without soliciting competitive bids. One of the firms was based in Medellin, Columbia.

McGraw, who worked as director of digital innovations and outreach at the Virginia education department, submitted falsified documents that requested reimbursement for hotel stays in San Francisco, San Antonio, Orlando and Las Vegas, according to the report.

“The actions by [McGraw] resulted in the misuse of public funds for personal benefit,” the inspector general said in the report.

Amid the investigation, McGraw repeatedly tried to “influence and persuade” Virginia education officials to mislead investigators, according to the report.

The inspector general’s report also cited McGraw for buying Apple iPads for eight Virginia education department employees. McGraw purchased the iPads with funds from a virtual schools’ program that she oversaw, but the employees who received iPads worked in different divisions.

The oil painting was a gift from Victory Productions, which developed online courses for the Virginia education department. Department officials never signed off on the company’s $850,000 contract. The report doesn’t list the value of the painting or the artist.

When investigators asked McGraw about the painting in August, she initially denied knowing its whereabouts, according to the report. She later returned the painting to the Virginia Department of Education, which shipped it back to Victory Productions in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The inspector general’s office has sent its report to the Virginia Attorney General and Richmond prosecutors.

McGraw resigned from her job in Virginia on Nov. 6 amid the investigation. Martirano hired her Dec.1 as executive director of the department’s instructional technology division. Soon after, department officials received an anonymous letter that listed details about the Virginia inspector general’s investigation.

Martirano and department officials never contacted the Virginia education department about McGraw, Virginia school officials said.

Martirano said Tuesday his department “followed normal hiring protocol, including reference checks when hiring Ms. McGraw.”

“Unfortunately, we cannot provide any additional details about the issue at this time because of current litigation,” he said.