News and Tribune

May 14, 2013

Committee to determine new Jeffersonville credit card ordinance

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE —

The Jeffersonville City Council held a special workshop Monday to refine the city’s credit card policy.

During its last two regular meetings, the topic of revising the city’s credit card ordinance has come up because claims are not being submitted with an itemized receipt and the details of meals — such as why they are being charged, the purpose of the meeting and who was in attendance — were not being presented.

An executive order signed by Mayor Mike Moore on April 9 was designed to address the non-travel meals or business meals being expensed to the city. It outlined how to submit a claim for the meals, what should be included in the claim and allowable and non-allowable circumstances for claiming a meal.

“I think we’re trying to do away with casual lunches,” said Councilman Dennis Julius.

While the executive order is designed to halt city employees from charging meals on a city credit card, Councilman Mike Smith said it — and the city’s current policy — does not go far enough.

“The problem is there’s no penalty,” he said. “You shouldn’t really have to write something in writing to tell somebody how to use a credit card, but unfortunately, that’s where we’re at. The problem is there’s no penalty, there’s no teeth, there’s no nothing.”

The council has also expressed a desire to possibly limit the number of cards that has been issued to city departments. According to the city’s finance department, there are 26 credit cards issued.

City Council Attorney Scott Lewis said many communities follow a basic set of guidelines offered by the Indiana State Board of Accounts. But the SBOA guidelines offers little in detailing a comprehensive credit card ordinance.

Among the things included in the policy are that “credit cards should not be used to bypass the accounting system ... and track appropriations to provide the governing board and other officials with timely and accurate accounting information and monitoring of the accounting system,” according to the state board of accounts guidelines. “Procedures and payments should be no different than for any other claim. Supporting documents such as paid bills and receipts must be available. Additionally, any interest or penalty incurred due to late filing or furnishing of documentation by an officer or and employee should be the responsibility of that officer or employee.”

Despite the interest and penalty provision, it is still the city’s responsibly to control and pay what is being charged.

“You feel like your hands are tied because you really have to approve the claim,” said Councilman Nathan Samuel. “In a way, [it’s] no skin off the employee’s back because it’s in the city’s name. It’s not the employee that’s accruing the interest.”

Councilman Ed Zastawny pointed to a credit card policy ordinance from Westfield as a model that the city could use. The policy he referenced required the credit card to be placed in the employee’s name, that they sign an understanding of the obligations that come with the credit card and it also includes a provision that allows the department head, controller and city council to track the charges online.

But not all of the council members were supportive of the idea of issuing credit cards to employees. Ultimately, the goal is that controls are in place before the charges are made on the cards and before the city is on the hook for the payment.

“We were told, this ultimately falls back on the council,” said Councilwoman Lisa Gill, referring to a statement made by the state board of accounts. 

Council President Connie Sellers added, “We just want to make sure we’re doing everything correctly.”

Credit cards were originally issued in the city to pay for travel and training expenses, which may lead to the council revisiting the city’s travel procedures as well, she explained.

“I think the travel ordinance, because they kind of go hand-in-hand ... might need to be updated a little bit,” Sellers said.

A committee was formed to hammer out a revised credit card ordinance to be presented to the full council. The committee will consist of Smith, Gill, Julius and Sellers. It is set to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 23.