Cicero school board spending taxpayer dollars on travel, hotels and expensive meals

You might call it a Mickey Mouse expense, but a receipt for a meal at a Disneyland restaurant is just one of many curious expenditures found by FOX 32 when we started looking at how a Cicero school board is spending taxpayer's money.

FOX 32 and the Better Government Association combed through thousands of dollars in travel, hotel and meal expenses by school board members at District 99.

A promotional video by the National School Boards Association touts the benefits of attending its annual conference.

"NSBA is here to ensure you as a public education leader continue to foster your achievement within your school district."

But for some board members of Cicero School District 99, the road trip is about more than just education.

In the middle of a San Diego conference three years ago, board member Derek Dominick submitted this meal receipt for the Rainforest Cafe at Disneyland, which is almost a two hour drive north.

It’s not the only questionable expense by Dominick, the son of longtime Cicero Town President Larry Dominick.

On that same trip, he expensed a $356 rental car for a week and drove it 706 miles. The conference lasted just three days.

And at this year's annual conference in Boston, he expensed an UBER ride to Yawkey Way, which is a block from Fenway Park, less than an hour before the Red Sox home opener.

"It begs the question why are we expensing taxpayers for an Uber ride during a conference when there's a baseball game going on? Are you there for the conference or are you there for the ballgame?" said Andrew Schroedter of the BGA.

FOX 32 also found Dominick and other school board members staying extra nights on the road, eating steamed lobster and crab and a $68 porterhouse steak.

And there's also thousands of dollars in travel expenses to attend the annual Illinois Association of School Boards Conference in Chicago. Hundreds of dollars a night were spent for first class hotels, scores of meals and $50 for hotel parking – and this is all just eight miles from their homes in Cicero.

When we tried to ask school board president Tom Tomschin about it, he had no comment.

FOX 32: Why are you guys spending thousands of dollars on meetings in Chicago?

"No comment. It's been a long night. I've been working all day,” said Tomschin.

FOX 32: Is there anything you want to say about it?

"All our conferences are done in order to give us more education and to better serve the public,” Tomschin said.

FOX 32: Yeah, but why are you staying in hotels eight miles away? (Tomschin slams car door.)

State records show District 99 ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending, which is about two thousand dollars less per year than the average Illinois student receives.

Also, more than 94-percent of its 12-thousand students come from low income families.

“This isn't one of the state's most affluent districts. They need to really pinch pennies here and make sure if they're gonna spend some money on a conference, it better be an important one and there better be a reason,” Schroedter said.

Both Dominick and Tomschin are also employed by the town of Cicero. An Illinois lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would limit how much public school officials can spend on travel.