DeKalb County revamps P-Card policy after uncovering abuse

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May has enacted new rules to manage use of county purchasing cards.
 

The changes come after a Channel 2 Action News and Atlanta Journal Constitution report exposed a commissioner using the card for personal expenses with no oversight.
 
"What we're looking at is from this day forward, making sure people are abiding by our policies, that policies are written openly and very transparent as well," May told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
 
May is transferring oversight of the card system from the purchasing department to the finance department, which controls the county's money.
 
"I think there's not been as good of oversight as it should have been across the board," said May, "Finance has the unique ability to cut off money."
 
All 294 debit cards will now be audited each year and receipts will be reviewed monthly.
 
"It will give more opportunities for the card holders to fix some of the issues that are presented," said May,
 
May's decision comes after Commissioner Elaine Boyer told Channel 2 she did not realize she wasn't allowed to bill personal expenses on the card, then repay them.     
 
Boyer has reimbursed the county for more than $15,000 since 2012.
 
The new policies dictate that county employees can be fired for misuse, and commissioners would lose access to their cards. They will all undergo annual training to make sure they understand.
 
"The CEO's changes are going to help mandate that and make it very clear to everybody and clarify what was before at best a murky policy and situation," said Bob Lundsten, Boyer's chief of staff.
 
Lundsten's expenses revealed he billed the county for his personal cell phone and car expenses, saying he thought that was allowed since he used them for work.
 
"To have my integrity challenged, it was disheartening and upsetting," Lundsten told Fleischer, adding that the policies were never fully explained to him.
 
Lundsten said he and Boyer met with May to craft the new policies, and welcome the change.
 
"It's a major positive," said Lundsten. "It makes every P-card carrier accountable on a monthly basis for all of their charges and expenditures."
 
DeKalb County's debit cards are designed to make it easier for employees to buy things needed for their job, or commissioners to spend the money in their budgets. The previous policy did not distinguish between the two, despite the CEO being able to terminate employees who misused the cards. The CEO has no authority over other elected officials, but says they can lose access to their cards.
 
"This is a privilege, it's not a right," said May.
 
May said all commissioners and employees who hold a P-card will have to sign the new detailed agreement within the next two weeks or their card will stop working.
 
The county is not currently reviewing past card usage; May said it would be up to the ethics board or district attorney handle that.



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