4.16.2005

Councilman's Card Pulled

The Herald Journal — 3.20.05

A Logan Municipal Councilman spent more than $6,000 with a city credit card over seven months during 2004 and 2005, according to records obtained by The Herald Journal, until the card was revoked in February. Steven Taylor, a councilman since January 2004, paid back all expenses charged on a Wells Fargo card and said the personal spending — that ranged from meals to gas to gifts — was the result of "miscommunication."

The spending came during a period when city officials say they were scrutinizing credit card purchases following a scandal over inappropriate use of public funds in the Salt Lake County government last summer, and Thursday the city finance department issued a memo outlining a new financial policy that restricts credit card spending. But Taylor said he was never given any guidelines as to credit card use when the card was issued to him when he took office, and wasn't asked to stop using the card until late December.

"I thought it was okay. It wasn't an issue," said Taylor, who did not use the card for the first five months he had it.

He added that he began using the card after traveling on city business to a solid waste conference in Arizona, where, Taylor said, he paid all his own expenses.

"I started using it after that trip," said Taylor. "And nobody said anything."

Taylor reimbursed all purchases promptly after credit card statements were received, said Finance Director Richard Anderson. Purchases included meals at local fast food restaurants, groceries, gas, and cell phone payments. Bills ranged over $1,500 in one month and $1,400 in another, when Taylor put a gift purchases from a local jewelry store of over $320 on the card. Taylor said the purchases were made out of convenience because he carried the city card more often than his personal credit card, and always intended to reimburse the city for all expenses.

"I didn't think it was inappropriate ... at no time was there any intention of not paying it," said Taylor.

City officials confirmed that the spending was voluntarily reimbursed each month, and revoking the card was the only disciplinary action imposed. A spokesman with the Utah Attorney General's Office said any misuse of funds is dealt with on a local level before the state office gets involved, and did not issue an opinion on the legality of Taylor's spending.

"It's something that was inadvertent," said City Attorney Kymber Housley. "I don't think there was any intent to not pay it back."

Housley confirmed that he spoke with Taylor in late December or early January regarding the purchases, and again in mid-February, when he asked Taylor to turn in his city credit card. The final purchase on the card was a $19 payment to Smith's on Feb. 13.

The only other charges to Municipal Council credit cards during 2004 and 2005 were from Councilwoman Tami Pyfer. Records show that Pyfer spent $210 to register the council for a Utah League of Cities and Towns conference in September, $34 on gas that Pyfer said was for the council to travel to the conference, and another $17 gas station charge in February.

Other councilmembers will be allowed to keep city issued credit cards, but the financial policy released Thursday asks that any others in city government turn in cards that are not essential, said Anderson. The policy states that credit cards, held by any employee other than a department head, may only be used for purchases associated with city approved travel, training expenses, and emergencies. There are currently around 60 credit cards issued by the city, and Anderson said he expects that number to fall as cards are turned in through the coming weeks.

"We've been looking at our credit card policy since last summer, when Salt Lake County had all their problems," said Mayor Doug Thompson. "We felt like a more formal policy would be appropriate, so that guidelines were written down, and clear."

Other councilmembers said a clearer policy will be helpful in the future, and welcomed the change.

"It's long overdue," said Pyfer. "We have brought up some of these issues during budget sessions in the past, and its been pushed aside as immaterial."

1 Comments:

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February 4, 2007 at 1:56 AM  

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