DeKalb County has released an independent audit of County Commission spending for the last ten years.
The audit includes on use of county purchasing cards. The so-called “P-cards,” which function like debit cards, are used by elected officials and some staff members to pay for work-related expenses. The P-cards have been the focus of ethics complaints against several commissioners.
The Commission had called for the audit of all commission office spending for the past decade and for P-card use dating back at least to 2010. That includes expenses by commissioners’ staff, the Board of Commissioners central office, and any former commissioners in office during the auditing period.
County policy allows commissioners to use some of their budgets to donate to charity, though that practice has been mentioned in some of the ethics complaints.
The audit shows District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader donated more than $20,000 to Park Pride Atlanta over a three-year period.
District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson paid some $12,000 to the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center to help fund various events at the facility. He also donated $500 to the GSU Foundation.
District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton used her expense account to buy more than 30 gift cards, totaling $1,650, over a two-year period. Most of the cards were purchased from office supply stores and were listed on expense transaction logs as “office supplies.” However, Barnes-Sutton staff member Judy Brownlee told auditors most of those gift cards were given to people who volunteered at community events.
Auditors noted that many expenditures could not be analyzed because of the County’s policy of saving expense documentation for only five years.
The report reveals commissioners’ record keeping to be less than perfect; auditors noted a lack of receipts and improper categorization of expenses in many cases. The audit made special note of Sharon Barnes-Sutton’s lack of documentation, stating, “A total of 332 transactions totaling approximately $60,585 did not have receipts.
Ethics complaints alleging improper use of the P-cards are currently pending against Commissioners Kathie Gannon, Jeff Rader, Sharon Barnes-Sutton, and Larry Johnson. In addition, former Commissioner Boyer’s Chief of Staff, Robert Lundsten, faces an ethics complaint related to his P-card use.
The audit also reveals former District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s spending that led to federal charges against her.
Boyer pleaded guilty last month to charges of fraud and conspiracy. She admitted using her county P-card for personal expenses including airline tickets and hotel rooms for her and her family. Boyer also used county money to pay $83,250 to M. Rooks Boynton, whom she listed on expense reports as a vendor providing “professional consulting service, research, legislative analysis and lobbying.” She later admitted Boynton did no work for the county but instead paid much of the money to her. Boyer is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May instituted new policies earlier this year regarding use of the P-cards, transferring oversight of the cards from the county’s Purchasing Department to the Finance Department and mandating training for anyone issued a P-card. Nearly 300 DeKalb elected officials and county employees have P-cards.
The audit firm, O.H. Plunkett & Co., will now work with DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Zach Williams to develop recommendations on new spending policy. Those recommendations will be presented to the Board of Commissioners for possible action.