Worker misuse of funds alleged

Official fired, said to buy personal items with government card

Audit irregularities

July 21, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A top purchasing official in Anne Arundel County government was fired last month for allegedly buying personal items with a county-issued credit card, several sources say.

The employee had authority to buy materials that the Department of Public Works and other agencies needed.

The employee started working in purchasing last fall, and the personal purchases were discovered in May. The Sun is not identifying the employee because no charges have been filed.

County officials declined to discuss the situation yesterday because of confidentiality rules.

"This is an ongoing employee action," said Spurgeon R. Eismeier, the county's central services director. Eismeier confirmed that the employee stopped working last month.

One source who asked to be unidentified said the irregularities were discovered during routine department auditing, "so the system worked." Outside investigators were notified immediately, the source said.

Another source said the purchases totaled about $40,000 and included a pinball machine.

County spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter said, "I cannot comment on any personnel matter."

During the past year, many county employees have received "procurement cards," as the county credit cards are known. Employees are authorized to buy job-related materials with the cards if they cannot get the materials from the county's supply network. The cards typically have a credit limit of $300. But Eismeier said he thinks the employee had a higher limit, though he is not sure how high.

To prevent abuse, employees must present receipts and obtain a supervisor's approval before submitting billing information to the county's finance office, which then pays the credit card bill. It is not clear how or at what stage the alleged abuse in this instance was discovered.

Attempts to reach the employee by phone and in person were unsuccessful yesterday.

At least two Anne Arundel employees have been convicted of job-related theft in recent years. In 1997, a former county public works supervisor was convicted of felony theft for supplying his backyard auto shop with stolen materials. Gary W. Bussey, a water-line maintenance supervisor, entered an Alford plea, in which he did not admit guilt but conceded that prosecutors had evidence to convict him.

Bussey was charged with ordering $158,118 worth of paint, tape and equipment between July 1992 and March 1995.

The incident prompted public works officials to revamp the purchasing procedures.

In 1998, Wanda B. Conaway, a former worker at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, pleaded guilty to felony theft after being accused of embezzling about $60,000 from inmate accounts.

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