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Prosecutor drops fraud charges against Ferguson-Florissant schools superintendent

Joseph Davis Ferguson-Florissant superintendent  1.29.15
Wiley Price | St. Louis American
Joseph Davis, Ferguson-Florissant School District superintendent , shown here in 2015.

Updated Tuesday with additional information and statements  A prosecutor in North Carolina has dropped fraud charges against the superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Joseph Davis’ attorney, Watsi Sutton, said Monday the charges were voluntarily dropped by North Carolina district attorney Seth Edwards.

New information led the prosecutor to drop the charges, according to a spokeswoman for Edwards.

"An attorney for Davis recently provided documentation to him proving that Davis’ use of the Washington County School Board credit card was an inadvertent mistake," spokeswoman Ruth Spruill said.

Davis was arrested Aug. 16 and accused of misusing a credit from when he was superintendent of schools in Washington, North Carolina. A district credit card was used to book a hotel and rental car in Philadelphia in January — nearly two years after Davis was hired by Ferguson-Florissant.

Investigators in North Carolina were unable to reach Davis after school officials notified them about the credit card charges, according to Spruill.

The superintendent was indicted by a grand jury in May. He traveled to North Carolina following his arrest in August.

Davis was “not aware of the travel reservations having been charged to the Washington County Schools’ credit card” because the credit card information was stored electronically, even though Davis had returned the card after he left the district, Sutton said in a statement.

In a statement released Tuesday, Davis said he when booking travel for a speaking engagement through Priceline. The last four digits of his personal credit card was only one number different from Washington County school’s credit card, he said.

“I want to apologize to my community,” Davis said in the statement. "My intent has never to been to bring this type of attention to my God, myself, my family, and my community. I aim to build and rebuild any trust that may have been lost during this time.”

Davis has repaid Washington County schools the $139.58, according to Sutton.

Davis took a leave absence as superintendent. The Ferguson-Florissant school board, which had publicly supported Davis since learning of his arrest, said in a statement Tuesday that he would return to work "immediately."

Original story from Aug. 18 —

Ferguson-Florissant schools Superintendent Joseph Davis is charged with fraud for allegedly using a credit card from his previous North Carolina school district in January.

Davis has been with the St. Louis-area district since 2015.

Davis was arrested Wednesday by St. Louis County police based on a May indictment from a grand jury in Washington County, North Carolina. That document accuses Davis of using a Washington County Schools credit card to pay for a hotel room and rental car on Jan. 15.

Davis’ attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, didn’t immediately return multiple phone and email requests for comment. No phone number could be found for Davis. D’Agrosa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Davis “emphatically denies” the charges and was “quite surprised by that accusation.”

Davis was released from St. Louis County jail on Friday afternoon. He'll travel to North Carolina to face the charges there.

Davis requested a leave of absence from the Ferguson-Florissant district on Thursday, which the school board granted, district spokesman Kevin Hampton said.

“Our hope is that Dr. Davis will return to lead the district,” school board president Rob Chabot said in a statement.

A January 2016 audit in North Carolina accused Davis of misspending more than $100,000 while he was superintendent of Washington County Schools. He did not face criminal charges, and the Ferguson-Florissant school board stood by Davis then.

Davis was named superintendent in February 2015 of the Ferguson-Florissant district, which serves more than 11,000 students across several north St. Louis County municipalities.

Ferguson-Florissant Deputy Superintendent Larry Larrew is the acting superintendent, Hampton said.

“The leadership team is doing business as usual,” he said. “And our business is educating kids.”

Camille Phillips contributed to this report.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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