Government credit cards buy his-and-her travel sets and more

By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog

CREDIT CARD ABUSE: A state audit shows that one employee used the Scioto County Staples card for everything from restaurant gift cards to a vacuum cleaner and some items were shipped directly to her home.

During a six-year period, two officials in Scioto County used government-issued credit cards for their own personal use, an audit shows.

The audit found “rampant unauthorized credit card use and self-dealing.”

Kendra Hobson, former Revolving Loan manager, and Sandra Perkins, a former fiscal clerk at the Board of Developmental Disabilities, were indicted on numerous charges. Both pleaded not guilty.

In April 2013, the Scioto County Auditor’s office was notified of potential unauthorized expenditures on the Staples credit card assigned to the Revolving Loan Department, the audit says. Even though the card had been closed in January 2013, it had a nearly $10,000 balance in April.

The office requested copies of invoices from January 2006 to December 2012 and performed an internal review of all purchases made by Hobson. They found $15,288 in unauthorized purchases, including gift cards to restaurants, food items, a coffee maker, watches, an MP3 player, a microwave, a his-and-hers travel set and a vacuum. Some items were delivered directly to Hobson’s home, auditors charge.

The internal review also showed the county made duplicate payments to Hobson totaling $2,024 and another $3,273 in payments for items that were actually returned to Staples.

In June 2013, a law firm representing Hobson paid $9,574 to the county’s Staple account.

Additionally, Hobson used $431 of coupons from the county’s Staples Reward program for items not related to the department and accepted 51 promotional items totaling $1,737.

Staples routinely offers promotional items to customers who spend a certain dollar amount. The state audit verified that none of the promotional items earned by the Revolving Loan department credit card — including MP3 players, emergency car kits, a cooler with BBQ tools, a nine-piece spa set, a tool kit, travel bag sets, luggage and a wine and bar serving set — were located at county offices.

The state auditor issued a finding for recovery against Hobson for $21,630.

The state auditor also issued a finding for recovery against Perkins for $16,765. Perkins has repaid $1,474.

The audit says that as a fiscal clerk, Perkins had the ability to issue checks on behalf of STAR Inc., a nonprofit workshop for adults with developmental disabilities that operates the county’s Community Employment Program. Between December 2011 and March 2013, she allegedly made 31 unauthorized payments to herself from that account. Perkins also used STAR’s credit card to pay fees on her repossessed vehicle and to cover utility costs unrelated to Star, the audit says.

“This is yet another example of what can happen when local governments pass out credit cards,” Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “It should not take two cases of abuse at the same time to spur robust internal controls.”

Hobson was indicted Aug. 19 on one count of theft in office, one count of tampering with records and one count of grand theft. The charges are all felonies. Her employment was involuntarily terminated on June 3, 2013.

Perkins was indicted March 26 on one felony count of theft in office, one felony count of grand theft and one felony count of tampering with records.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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