FDLE clears city employees of credit card misuse allegations

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By Alice Du Pont

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in a written report dated Feb. 24, notified the city of Quincy that after their investigation into allegations made by Mayor Derrick Elias against 20 (city employees) separate card holders, "was either justified by the City Director of Finance or reimbursed to the city by the acrd holder..." and based on the above information no further action was required by FDLE," the report stated.

 According to the official FDLE report, Mayor Derrick Elias met with Inspector Brett Lycett on Feb 6, 2012 to discuss what Elias believed to be inappropriate spending by Quincy city officials on city credit cards (P-Cards). Elias provided Inspector Lycett with numerous credit card statements that he (Elias) had reviewed and highlighted specific charges he believed to be inappropriate. Commissioners said they were unaware of Elias' meeting with FDLE and that he had not been authorized to take such action on behalf of the commission.

 "The credit card statements provided by Mr. Elias were from the 2011 calendar year and consisted on 20 separate card holders from the City of Quincy. Inspector Lycett provided the credit card statements to Government Analyst Callie Rhodes for review.

Prior to Elias taking the matter to FDLE, which some commissioners thought was inappropriate, the matter had been discussed during a regular commission meeting and the four other commissioners said they were satisfied with the internal investigation and the explanation and action taken by Finance Director Theresa Moore.

On Feb. 24, Inspector Lycette and GA Rhoads met with City manager Jack McLean and Finance Manager Theresa Moore to discuss the questionable credit transactions identified by Elias.

 Prior to the meeting, McLean provided Inspector Lycett with "numerous documents" that showed various reimbursements made by credit card holders which corresponded with many of the transactions questioned by Elias.

"During that meeting," Lycette wrote in his report, "Mr, McLean and Ms. Moore were able to verbally justify the other transactions deemed questionable by Mr. Elias. Ms. Moore  advised that the City of Quincy, per policy and procedure, reviews each monthly credit card statement and reviews the justification for each charge as well as requiring related receipts. Ms. Moore indicated that if a receipt is not attached, he city required the card holder to complete ann affidavit regarding the charge not justified by an accompanying receipt."

 Inspector Lycett then contacted Elias after the meeting with McLean and Moore and told him that the credit card charges he identified as questionable were either justified by the finance director or reimbursed to the City by the card holder.

"Mr. Elias was informed that any procedural concerns he had would need to be addressed by city officials. based upon the above information, no further investigative action is required by FDLE," the inspector wrote.

 But during the March 13 meeting, Elias said just because FDLE was unable to substantiate any wrongdoing doesn't mean it doesn't exist. He said that he was told by Lycett that the staff answered questions to his satisfaction but that FDLE does not conduct audits. That statement was not reflected in Lycett's official response to Elias.

When commissioners were given the FDLE report, Commissioner Keith Dowdell asked how such a request got to FDLE. He said that the commission as a board had not requested an investigation and asked why it had been done.

 The issue of the P-card has been brought up before by Elias and he got no support.

"There are clear-cut policies and procedures on expenditures by city officials and it spells out what are allowable purchases," explained Commissioner Andy Gay to Elias during a previous meeting. Moore said is was her responsibility to check the purchases monthly and they are also reviewed by McLean.

Other commissioners expressed faith in Moore's ability. Gay said he trusted Moore and her expertise in finance.

Dowdell said he was under the impression that questions about P-cards use was put to rest. That's why, he said, the FDLE report took him by surprise because no investigation had been authorized by the commission.

Elias's action regarding the P-Card, his gaveling the meeting to a close without a motion and taking unauthorized action in the name of the commission caused Dowdell to request that City Attorney Larry White consult the Charter on removing a commissioner from office.