Knox County Mayor Ragsdale's office responds to the latest KNS series on P-Card spending:

Improvements for Purchasing Card Program

Beginning Sunday, November 11, 2007, the Knoxville News Sentinel will run a series of articles examining spending in county government. A number of these articles will focus on the Executive Branch.

The Mayor’s Office knows there is no more important responsibility in protecting the public’s trust than to be careful, responsible and conservative custodians of the people’s money. The entire staff of the Mayor’s Office is committed to making certain that every tax dollar managed by the Executive Branch is spent as efficiently as possible, and exclusively for the benefit of the citizens who contributed those funds.

The past several months have brought forward a number of concerns, particularly related to the use of county purchasing cards, also known as p-cards. The following is a brief summary of some of the steps taken by the Mayor’s Office to reduce the likelihood of future problems:

1. Suspended 171 Purchasing Cards on June 25, 2007.

2. Three employees were dismissed and one employee was reprimanded.

3. Mandatory Purchasing Card re-training for all employees who did have or might have an occasion to use a card.

4. Purchasing Card Review Committee formed.

5. Multiple visits made by the Mayor to the State Comptroller seeking assistance with Purchasing Card problems.

6. Instituted a major staff reorganization including creation of a Financial Compliance Officer and a Policy Compliance Officer.

7. Instituted stronger, improved management controls:

- Asked Commission’s Auditor to increase the volume of random sampling performed each year.

- Instituted centralized, rather than departmental, control of Purchasing Card records.

- Named new administrator of Purchasing Card Program.

8. Blocked all travel and food privileges for all cards under the Executive Branch.

9. Providing comprehensive monthly p-card statements to the County Commission.

10. Employees instructed in proper reporting procedure for business mileage reimbursement.

It is important to note that the vast majority of p-card charges are appropriate and above reproach. Every month, Knox County purchases food for the jails, pharmaceuticals for the health department and hundreds of other items on p-cards. In October 2007, there were 1,099 p-card transactions with a total dollar value of $582,977.52.

P-card programs are a standard business practice in both the public and private sector. They offer much greater purchasing efficiency than requisition-based systems and can enhance the monitoring and tracking of expenditures. Additionally, in some cases, companies furnishing p-card services will provide rebates to the government or industry served by the program. In 2006, Knox County received a $26,000 rebate from its vendor.

The Mayor’s Office has provided full and complete access to all of the records requested by the News Sentinel and has worked hard to provide detailed and complete answers to all of their questions. The staff of the News Sentinel has been courteous and professional throughout the information gathering process and we appreciate their conduct.

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Anonymous's picture

Dismissed?

"2. Three employees were dismissed and one employee was reprimanded."

I thought Margie Loyd, John Werner and Requitta Bone all resigned.

What's up with the change from resigning to being dismissed?

Rico Swabbe's picture

Werner Dismissed?

Well maybe. He had no intentions of resigning that cushy six figure job with an unlimited P-Card and he's the point man to tell the auditors what to worry about and what to not worry about?

If they really look closely at Werner's travel records, they'll realize that very little of the travel was necessary, he was just looking for a quick snort and a big meal with his buddies and then stick it to the county taxpayers that were already paying his salary.

I'd make them justify every penny they spent and then demand a refund of the rest.

bizgrrl's picture

Is it possible it is time

Is it possible it is time for the Sentinel to move forward and look to see what the county is doing to change? Maybe follow-up and review current spending activity?

Better yet, why don't they do a thorough review of the Bush Whitehouse?

bill young's picture

First things first

The appointments for the 8 commission seats..should be finished in early December.

We will have to wait & see how the 8 new commissioners & the 11 that are seated now want to go foward on this issue.

Ragsdale2010's picture

Ragsdale and Van DeVate were

Ragsdale and Van DeVate were traveling to Memphis, not on an edSouth mission, but to an educational gathering such that Ragsdale could play and pretend he's gubenatorial material, futher salting his ego, such that he could continue the fallacy that he's actually considered running for governor in 2010. Real gubenatorial material wouldn't travel without an attache', thus the need for toady Van DeVate to rent the black crown vic from Hertz (Alamo and National only rent GM).

But, NorthWest cancelled the gig for Ragsdale's ego and he and Van DeVate had to clock back through security and wander back down to the City County Building, no Shelby County education votes in hand.

The multitude of expenses claimed as part of Ragsdale's efforts on adjusting the BEP forumula to better Knox County are nothing more than the veil that his hedonistic expenses on the county taxpayers were hidden behind. He should be put in jail for this gamesmanship, he was looting the public treasury for his pipe dream of being governor in 2010.

Good grief.

Factchecker's picture

"Sorority functions" on our tax dollars?!

Community Services Senior Director Cynthia Finch charged at least seven trips, including three to attend sorority functions in Atlanta, Buffalo, N.Y., and Hampton, Va.

What's up with that? She's still there, no?

conciliary's picture

The problem of evil?

In her book, Evil in Modern Thought, Susan Neiman writes:

Evils can be acknowledged as evils without insisting that evil has an essence.

She observes that, "Evil is not merely the opposite of good it is inimical to it. Evil aims at destroying moral distinctions themselves. One way it does this is (for the perpetrator(s) of evil) to make victims into accomplices."

The perpetrator(s) of evil may purposefully weave a web of entanglement. This allows them an opportunity to redirect the guilt of conscience away from him/herself through the creation of new controls.

CBT's picture

Mayor Ragsdale knew the

Mayor Ragsdale knew the 'news' wouldn't be good, so he sent this email out to get ahead of the KNS. In today's story, we see $50,000+ in food just in the Mayor's office, gas for vehicles and maybe the most egregious of all:

Finch's county purchasing card paid her monthly membership fees to the club, generally around $135. At least one of those statements also included charges for meals.

It's obviously not the amount, there are MUCH greater charges which appear in the records. Paying Finch's private club dues is simply beyond any comprehension of responsible government spending. But, it appears we've learned through this mess that responsible government spending is completely lost in the Knox County Mayor's office. If one gets meals, gas, 'travel pay', private club membership, a luxury vehicle and a $120,000-$140,000 salary, that's a pretty good 'public service' gig. Nothing more than gettin' rich off the taxpayers.

We keep hearing the Mayor's office was spending money 'like private business'. Well, I beg to disagree, particularly on accountability for travel, meals, etc. Private businesses generally require approvals and have checks and balances. There was obviously little or no accountability in the Knox County Mayor's office. Private business would fire employees who kept secret, off the books slush funds to cover things not allowed to be paid by the company. But, more importantly, this is NOT private business. Private businesses spend their own money. This is government officials spending taxpayer money.

From the recent story in the KNS (Sunday, I believe), our 11 County Commissioners appear to be poised to just let all this slide. In our form of county government, Commission has the primary responsibility. If this is how they take care of problems, why should any of 'em keep their jobs or be elected to any office.

mbradley's picture

Just took a look at the

Just took a look at the county website and the Mayor's release is the headline item... looks like item #2 may have been updated...

Then

Three employees were dismissed and one employee was reprimanded

Now

Three employees resigned and one employee was reprimanded.

Some of this stuff is changing so quickly its difficult to keep up with...

Ragsdale2010's picture

Ragsdale will say anything at anytime

Ragsdale will literally say anything at anytime to anybody, so long as such is politically expedient and of some spin value to him.

All the more reason to put this gradiose ego under oath and let him say it into the camera and into the microphone, once and for all, exactly what he was doing with all of that money, living large on a county P-card, when we were already paying him way too much money for his pea headed political stunts and photo ops, such that we can ensure that this clown never runs for public office again and is promptly removed from office at the first realistically available opportunity by the FBI, the TBI, the Secret Service (on behalf of the IRS) or whoever is willing to call a crook a crook and proceed with criminal proceedings against the whole gang.

mbradley's picture

All the more reason to put

All the more reason to put this gradiose ego under oath and let him say it into the camera and into the microphone, once and for all, exactly what he was doing with all of that money, living large on a county P-card, when we were already paying him way too much money for his pea headed political stunts and photo ops, such that we can ensure that this clown never runs for public office again and is promptly removed from office at the first realistically available opportunity by the FBI, the TBI, the Secret Service (on behalf of the IRS) or whoever is willing to call a crook a crook and proceed with criminal proceedings against the whole gang.

Wow, that sentence could use a period or two... But, I do agree that it would be nice to get some answers that haven't been filtered through the PR department.

Bird_dog's picture

bumper sticker

read this on some blog - can't remember who suggested it - well said:

Clean the Slate in 2008
Do it Again in 2010

Pam Strickland's picture

I'm for it

Pam Strickland

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." ~Kurt Vonnegut

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