News and Tribune

January 23, 2013

Council members: Questioning of mayor’s purchases exaggerated

Mayor Moore says ‘the witch hunt needs to stop’

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Talk surrounding a requested investigation as a result of charges made by Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore on a city credit card are being blown out of proportion, according to several City Council members.

During a recent council finance committee meeting — called to discuss the budget for the city clerk’s office — the receipt from a credit card charge made at Home Depot was questioned by Councilwoman Lisa Gill. She said the receipt was not itemized and totaled more than $1,000. When she questioned the charge, Gill explained that she was just asking what was purchased.

Moore explained the charge from Home Depot was for cabinets installed in city offices and that another receipt questioned in a TV media report was for repairs to a bicycle he uses during neighborhood meetings, which was previously purchased by the city.

According to city ordinance — 2012-OR-1 — regulating credit card purchases, “each department shall submit a detailed, original receipt within seven calendar days of incurring said credit card expense.” 

In addition, if it is determined that the charges are improper, the expense shall fall to the employee and may be deducted from their pay.

But Moore said that is not always possible to provide an itemized receipt.

“There are a few [receipts] over the last year that didn’t have the itemized [information] and some places you will go to do not give an itemized credit card receipt,” he said.

Because of the question raised about the one receipt, council President Connie Sellers said she would investigate the matter.

“We are conducting our due diligence as a fiscal body for the city by investigating the matter,” Sellers said, reading from her response to a request for comment from another media outlet. “By that I meant ... I went through the credit cards [receipts]. As I went through the receipts I saw nothing unusual. There were some credit card statements that were not itemized, there were some times that the mayor went out to eat and did not list people’s names, but I do not consider that something that’s newsworthy.”

Sellers said the WAVE-TV story, along with a history of credit card misuse by a former city official, prompted the decision to request a State Board of Accounts review. While the request has not officially been sent, Sellers said it will be done to ensure that there hasn’t been any misuse. 

“I did not want it to come out again, if there was something, that we were behind the eight ball like we were with Peggy,” she said.

Former Jeffersonville Clerk-Treasurer Peggy Wilder received a year of probation on a conversion charge in 2010 that related to her use of city credit cards for personal purchases between 2004 and 2008. She paid for the purchases, not the city, but pleaded guilty to exercising unauthorized control of the card. The improper charges were discovered during an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit in early 2009.

While Sellers admitted she doesn’t believe there has been any wrongdoing by the mayor, she wanted a neutral third party to be involved to ensure all of the charges are in compliance.

“If we don’t do it, we’re going to be accused of not doing our due diligence,” she said. “And the mayor, whether people believe him or us, he’s going to be put in the hot seat. Let’s just get it cleared up and move on because I don’t think they’re going to find anything. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It’s blown out of proportion.”

Moore questioned why the council didn’t ask him about the credit card receipts sooner. He also pointed to a lack of communication that has been cited by the city council, and asked why the issue wasn’t brought to him before going to the media.

“Not one time did they come and ask [about] these expenses,” he said. “The witch hunt needs to stop. We need to be promoting what is best for the city of Jeffersonville and the politics being played by the city council president and Lisa Gill need to stop. It’s becoming an embarrassment for the city, the actions that they are taking.”

Councilman Matt Owen in an e-mail disavowed the investigation of the credit card charges and said that it does not represent the will of the finance committee.

Again, Sellers said there has been no evidence of impropriety.

“We have no proof that there’s been anything done,” she said. 

She added that she will request that from now the mayor get an itemized receipt for the charges and list the names of the people he is with during working lunches.

The News and Tribune has filed an open-records request for the receipts in question, but has yet to receive the documents.