Police probe county credit card use

Whether worker bought personal items on card is investigation's focus

July 27, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police confirmed yesterday that they are investigating a warehouse supervisor who was fired last month for allegedly buying personal items with a county-issued credit card.

The employee had authority to buy materials for the Department of Public Works and other county agencies. But during a routine audit in May, officials allegedly discovered personal purchases were also made with the "procurement card," or county credit card.

One source who asked not to be identified said the purchases totaled about $40,000 and included a pinball machine.

County Personnel Director Randy Schultz said that in rare instances, thefts are not prosecuted if former employees make restitution. But he added that "we have a responsibility to report a crime if we have evidence that has one has occurred."

Initially, there was some confusion at the Police Department about whether any county supervisor had filed a police report or notified police investigators of the possible theft.

The county warehouse is in Millersville, but the county's central services office is in Riva, so a Southern District officer responded, said Lt. Joseph Jordan, a police spokesman.

A detective was present when county supervisors interviewed the purchasing official for a second time in June, Jordan said.

Because the employee has not been arrested, The Sun is not identifying him. Police are continuing their investigation, Jordan said.

"It's taken some time to obtain receipts and documents in the case," he said.

About 500 county employees have procurement cards and are authorized to buy job-related materials if they cannot get them from the county's supply network. The cards typically have limits of $300 per transaction. But several have a $500 or larger limit per transaction, said Alfred Warfield, the county's acting controller.

According to county policy, the finance department pays the charges off each month when it gets a bill from the bank. At the same time, the bank sends a statement to the county employee, who is supposed to check his record of purchases against the credit statement, said Jim F. Ryan, the county's purchasing agent.

Once the employee confirms the charges, he forwards the bank statement to a supervisor, who then approves the expenditures and submits the statement to the finance department, Ryan said. But by that time the bill has been paid.

Employees with county credit cards are also required to keep receipts on files for three years, he said.

Each department has its own policies regarding whether employees must receive pre-approval from a supervisor before making a purchase with a county credit card.

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland said her office long ago scheduled an audit of procurement cards, to begin this summer.

"Somewhere the controls failed, but we don't know where," she said.

Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

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