Commissioners Call for Deeper Probe on Purchase Cards

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - The pressure's growing from the latest resignation in Knox County's so-called p-card spending scandal.

Wednesday, former mayoral assistant Margie Loyd became the third county employee to quit after being reprimanded for questionable spending.

The audit is digging deeper, but Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd reports several county commissioners wonder whether it'll go deep enough.

They're worried about blow-back from voters already upset about spending that doesn't pass the smell test.

But can the fact-finding and fix, be thorough, and come reasonably quickly, without outside help?

“I think you could say Margie has been made a scapegoat because others up there that's done the same thing,” Knox County Commissioner Paul Pinkston echoes his former colleague, the so-called guest of honor for the now-notorious $200 lobster lunch. Former Commissioner Diane Jordan insisting she didn't know it was on the county's dime, that she thought former Mayoral Assistant Margie Loyd was under orders to help Mayor Mike Ragsdale mend fences with her.

“I personally, would like to see every single P-card looked at and scrutinized,” says Commissioner Mike Hammond.

“I talked to the auditor this morning, and we need to go through everybody,” Commissioner R. Larry Smith says.

Yes. And no.

Knox County's internal auditor tells WVLT his crews still double-checking the Mayor and his senior staff's card spending. But past that, he says, sampling is the only way to get through the other 160 cards once out there.

“You have to realize, these other cards that these people have, they're just designated to be used at certain places where we need supplies,” Commissioner Pinkston says. “They can't take airplane trips on them.”

Which, Commissioner Pinkston says, should make the broader audit go faster.

But what's a fair and accurate sample?

Auditors say they could double-check expenses by type, pick receipts at random, or compare expenses of employees in different departments who have similar duties.

“I think Mr. Wall and his crew can handle it, I think they're doing an excellent job,” Pinkston says.

And for now, a job without a timetable. Auditors say they won't release their findings piecemeal. They're updating the state comptroller daily and the Mayor and County Commission will receive a final report before anything goes public.

But at least one Commissioner wonders whether it's enough.

“Things have become so politicized in this county right now, that it's become so personal, that we need an outside group to come in and take a look at it. And I believe that would be the comptroller.” Commissioner Mike Hammond won't say whether he'll ask county commission to ask the Tennessee Comptroller to take over the p-card audit.

Mayor Ragsdale’s office says the comptroller should come in only after Knox County completes its own broadened audit.

But when? Again, nothing firm, but commissioners say they would expect to have something, by Halloween at the latest.


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