Knoxville (WVLT) - Knox County’s mayor and his staff are now paying up to settle questionable spending uncovered in a governmental audit, the bill, almost $6,500.
Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd went to the City County Building, where Mayor Mike Ragsdale has been telling the Ethics Committee what his own investigators have uncovered.
Mayor Ragsdale says he is ultimately to blame. But he's reprimanding three senior managers, Requitta Bone’s boss Cynthia Finch, for not catching the problem, his own assistant Margie Loyd for charging a personal trip, and Finance Director John Warner for, as he says, not setting a better example.
“People either have lost confidence in this government, or they're losing confidence in this government,” says Ethics Committee member Mike Hammond.
Community Services Assistant Requitta Bone may have paid Knox County back, and resigned.
But the Ethics Committee wants to know, and Mayor Ragsdale has been trying to determine, how she could have charged car rentals, food, and flights to Detroit and Orlando, for herself and her family, apparently unchecked for more than a year.
“It obviously broke down somewhere. Someone was not adequately checking these bills, and adequately checking to make sure these expenses were proper,” Hammond says.
Written county policy requires the charge card administrator approve who gets cards, and make clear to card holders that they can't charge personal expenses, they have to reconcile their bills every month.
“I believe that the policies are adequate, I believe that the controls are adequate, it's just that the controls weren't being followed. So where that breakdown occurred, I think is something the Mayor needs to address,” Hammond says.
Namely, how many other employees have questionable charges? For how much? And who should have caught them?
“So we had the same person that was reconciling that was doing the charging and when you have a situation like that, it runs the risk for some improprieties to occur,” Mayor Mike Ragsdale says. “And that's obviously what happened here.”
Besides the senior staff reprimands, the mayor's reduced the number of card holders from 170 to 12.
Different supervisors will reconcile those bills, auditors will do more reviews, new training on the use of the card has to be completed by august 13th, and all travel must be pre-approved. Knox County taxpayers won't pay for meals anymore.
"Sometimes where there's a failure on the team, the head coach takes the blame, and I'm the head coach of this team, and so if people want to blame someone I'm the appropriate one. I'm not going to try to pass this off on someone else,” Ragsdale says.
Mayor Ragsdale will be doing some settling up himself, he says every year he normally writes a check to Knox County to cover what he calls incidental expenses.
He says he'll be writing another one for several hundred dollars to cover what he calls unintended, but nonetheless questionable expenses.
This investigation isn't over yet, you heard about those 170 cards that were out there, those expenses will be reviewed, anybody who's found to have personal charges on those will be expected to reimburse the county and depending on what those charges are, how much they are, whether they are intentional some of those folks could be at risk of losing their jobs.
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