Credit Card Non-Policy: Kennesaw taxpayers deserve better protection
October 31, 2013 12:41 AM | 2461 views | 7 7 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Kennesaw has no formal policy regarding the use of city-issued credit cards by mayor and council. But in the wake of a front-page MDJ story Sunday, “Kennesaw Mayor: City has no policy on credit card use,” it’s abundantly clear that such a policy is needed.

That story showed that Mayor Mark Mathews and various council members have been, to quote the story, “wining, dining, dressing and traveling at the expense of the city’s taxpayers” for at least the past two years.

The closest the city has to such a policy is a sentence in the city charter that states that the mayor and council members, after presenting itemized vouchers, shall be reimbursed for their “actual and necessary expenses” in the performance of their duties.

Aside from that, it’s up to the individual officials to determine what is “reasonable” to use their cards on, said several council members.

They clearly have been using a liberal definition of what’s “reasonable,” if the $23,000 they’ve charged so far this year for meals, hotels and the like is any indication.

So what types of spending have city taxpayers been reimbursing as of late? How about:

• $8,000 that the mayor spent on restaurant tabs, iPad accessories, flights to conventions and other events between December 2012 and September of this year. That spending by the mayor included $1,835 for lapel pins he handed out to players on the Kennesaw Mountain and North Cobb High School football teams to commemorate the first time they played in Kennesaw State University’s stadium.

• $6,500 spent by Councilman Bruce Jenkins since January, the most of the five council members. Indeed, some of Jenkins’ spending would be laughable were it not public money he was wasting on items like $25 for frozen yogurt during a trip to Washington, D.C., and $30 for a guidebook he bought there to the National Cathedral. His excuse? He told the Journal he hopes to teach Kennesaw Youth Council members about the cathedral, if he ever brings them to Washington. As a reader commenting as “Voter in Kennesaw” aptly put it on the MDJOnline.com website, “I think Jenkins under estimates our youth of today. If he wanted them to learn about the National Cathedral just let them go online to find all the info they needed, and it is free. Jenkins spent $30 of taxpayers’ money for something that is free online.”

Almost as bad as the casual approach about spending was the mayor’s disinterest in documenting it.

“It would be a waste of time to document reimbursements,” Mathews said, adding that the failure to do so might upset “the idiots that like to look at the nickels and dimes stuff.”

The “idiots” like reporters and editors and taxpayers.

But the city’s casual attitude about council spending predates Mathews. Former Mayor Leonard Church (who’s now running against Jenkins), told the MDJ a credit card policy isn’t necessary.

“We are all grown-ups here,” he said. “It is not the card’s fault, it is the one using it.”

True enough. But this is an era when government transparency and accountability are paramount and in which examples are too numerous to list of elected officials guilty of financial shenanigans. Kennesaw’s blanket policy of issuing credit cards to all of its elected officials is one copied by few if any other jurisdictions that we know of. And it’s doubly hard to justify in the absence of rigorous guidelines for their use.

Kennesaw’s “trust us” approach does almost nothing to protect taxpayers from potentially abusive credit-card use by the mayor and council. That city’s taxpayers deserve better.

Comments
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Surprise?
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October 31, 2013
Does any of this surpise the public? There are 3 members of council and/or mayor that have filed for bankrupctys. This is why they don't care about the citizens funds, cause they didn't care about their own interests. It's become the government way to spend others money and not care...Time for a change, if the others decide to do the same lets vote them out also....
old timer
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October 31, 2013
It would be interesting to look at all mayors in the county and see how cards are used and who all has city cards.
bobilee
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October 31, 2013
It seems the cavalier manner by which elected city officials absence. of conscious ethical accounting principles to spend taxpayers' money is without boundaries! If Kennesaw is doing this, is Marietta, Cobb County government since these two entities also spend and tax without a wink. Do they all think of citizens as idiots? Cobb County Lee and Kennesaw Mayor are good friends!

We need forensic audits and tight petty cash reimbursement expense policies!
Reposted
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November 01, 2013
A recent article published highlighted the desperate need for a "per diem policy" in our city, as a resident for 23 years and homeowner. Questions, great questions are needed to be asked and answered I personally draw from the article. Some facts are left dimly lit and are haunting, strained from view in many cases that are sited in the article. I personally understand a budget and wasteful spending. I voted against the recent budget because of the increased revenue usage? I voted against the only tax increase in nearly 20 years.

Some examples of purchases mentioned:

1.) $113.00 at PaPa Johns for Pizza, this was for lunch for our City's eight member Youth Council, their three sponsors, administrators on a visit to the State Capitol with Senator Tippens and Rep. Setzler allowing them to save money by having lunch in their office rather then going to a local restaurant, (in this area, more expensive and less personal time with these elected officials).

2.) Dicks sporting goods for shirts summer and winter shirts for again for the eight member City's Youth Council and their sponsors with monograming their names with the city logo, their "uniform" for this year long leadership training.

3.) At the National League of Cities Conference in DC, The purchase at the Pink-berry Ice Cream shop mentioned, after dinner, along with many others in attendance was purchased by another City official from Denver, I felt Kennesaw's hospitality should be shown to the other guests in attendance and purchase their ice cream, a $25.00 investment.

Why was I attending the NLC convention and looking after the Youth Council, or going to the Dairy Queen to meet a ailing Council member to update him by the giving of care with city business, simple answer. If you notice and take time to see, hear and understand the facts...in many cases, its simple, I cared for a fellow council member, Bill Thrash and many others. In his case, I tried to care for a dream that we didn't want to see die with him. His legacy of being named to the NLC's Youth Education & Families Commission, etc. The list goes on, in this parade of specters, but to stop, point out that even in this season of ghosts and goblins, this is not a "which hunt"; it is a need for clarity, team work. Our community needs to gain the facts and grasp what we are doing with their funds. For those who take the time, their are reasons I do what I do, it is not for personal gain, personal consumptions, it is simple. My mentor taught me that simply breaking bread with someone was the greatest clear sign of acceptance. My mentor demonstrated this with the simple act of inviting himself to Zacchaeus's home for dinner. Just mediate on the mission, discover the reasons and purpose for expenses, these can usually be found or should I say demonstrated in something as simple as what I call "Character".

Fond regards,

Bruce
rjsnh
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October 31, 2013
Outrageous abuse of public trust by these elected officials that have confused the concept of public service with that of self service. There questionable personal use of public funds and very cavalier attitudes about such use is an insult to the voting residents who put them in office. The lack of any standard of accountability to which they hold themselves defines a system that is at both times incompetent and corrupt. Their credit cards should be cancelled by the citizens they supposedly represent.
Please vote
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October 31, 2013
Even with this brought to light, the Mayor seems totally happy with the fact that there is no policy, and hasn't said a single word about tightening things up.

There is an election next week, and citizens (or idiots as Mathews calls them) have the opportunity to vote Mathews supporters Duckett and Reideman out of office.
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