Purchasing cards revoked in DeKalb amid investigations

Taxpayer-funded charge cards are being taken away from government officials in DeKalb County.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May announced Monday that the county is suspending use of purchasing cards based on recommendations from Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde, special investigators who are handling an outside inquiry of fraud and corruption.

Their ongoing investigation has found examples of improper expenses charged to the county, including purchases of unauthorized items and splitting purchases to circumvent the county’s $1,000 per transaction limit, May said.

“Progress is being made every day but major challenges remain in our commitment to root out any abuse, corruption or malfeasance. This is the primary reason why we hired special investigators,” May said.

The charge card ban applies to county commissioners, their staffs and most of the nearly 300 DeKalb employees who have been issued P-cards. The cards may still be used in some circumstances, such as for emergencies, motor vehicle repairs and court expenses.

DeKalb’s government has struggled with allegations of purchasing card misuse against several officials.

Former Commissioner Elaine Boyer pleaded guilty last fall to bilking taxpayers of more than $100,000 following an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that identified $16,800 of personal expenses on her P-card, including family airline tickets, rental cars, cell phone charges and a ski resort booking.

Her former chief of staff, Bob Lundsten, has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he used his taxpayer-backed purchasing card to buy about $200 to $300 worth of items at stores including Kroger and the UPS Store.

An audit of the county's P-card spending found lax oversight of the program and receipts missing for some expenses. The audit found that the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and its staff spent $257,170 on P-cards since 2006, and receipts were submitted for 57 percent of those transactions.