Will P-card violators face legal action?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's office has asked for, and will receive an extra 10 days to answer claims from an auditor.

Some Knox County residents and people serving in county government remain outraged at the alleged abuses, outline in the audit.

They want to know how spending by certain people could go unchecked for almost four and a half years, and if it was even legal.

Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith is among them.

“That's just elementary business practice,” he said. “You need to have a receipt in order to count that expense.”

Such an accounting practice is suppose to be true for the Knox County Government too.

County policy dictates that drink’s should never be paid for by the tax payer.

But according to a draft of the audit, Mayor Ragsdale and his senior managers have paid the county back about 2/3s of the amount of money they spent on alcohol with their P-Cards, about $1,844 worth of booze.

Mayor Ragsdale was also issued a county car and was given a car allowance of $20,000 a year.

Yet sources close to the audit say he could fill-up using his P-card, provided the allowance account paid the bill.

The problem is that auditors have no receipts for almost 3 dozen fill-ups totaling more than $1,200.

Auditors say they have way to prove whether he filled up his county car, or his own.

“If monies are due, they must be paid back,” said John Owings, the county law director. “And how you'd go about that? There are a number of ways.

Owings said he would prefer if the proven offender would just pay up, but the county could sue to recover the funds, or ask the district attorney to consider criminal charges.

“I would want the blessing of the commission,” he said.

At least one Commissioner thinks the audits shouldn't end at the Mayor's office.

“I want to go back and look at all the other offices that are out there,” said Smith.

Former Sheriff Tim Hutchison insists that auditors would find the sheriff's office is clean.

“Our department had P-cards when they started,” he said. “They sent me one, and I shredded it and anytime that I would travel, etc., I would just get reimbursed for it and turn in a receipt.”

Hutchison also claims Mayor Ragsdale and his senior staff seemed to be the only folks breaking the P-card rules.

“I'm looking at the Mayor's role in this,” said Smith. “What type of leadership is he going to play in taking the lead on this and in trying to correct these actions”

The mayor’s official response to the situation is expected to come in writing.

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