Inquest targets P-card use in Georgia Secretary of State’s Office

The state Inspector General is investigating potential misuse of taxpayer-funded charge cards by a staffer in Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, his office said Tuesday.

David Dove, Kemp’s top aide, said the two-term Republican self-reported the problem to Inspector General Deborah Wallace’s office on March 7 after it surfaced in an audit. The inquest involved a $471 airline ticket that was bought for a non-employee on the agency’s purchasing card, known as a P-card.

“We’re cooperating,” Dove said. “This is something we went to them with, and we’re fully cooperative.”

Wallace confirmed the probe but declined to comment on the specifics, saying it was an “open investigation.” She said there’s no timetable for when it would be completed.

Democrats for months have called on the Inspector General to launch a different probe into Kemp's office focusing on the gaffe last year that led to the release of more than 6 million voters' confidential information to several media outlets and political parties.

Kemp ordered an independent audit of his office's handling of the breach and arranged for credit monitoring for voters who sign up. Gov. Nathan Deal also assigned a trio of outside attorneys to represent Kemp in the civil lawsuit targeting the breach.

The use of P-cards in Georgia has come under new scrutiny after widespread allegations of misspending by county and state employees. State lawmakers in 2015 made it easier for prosecutors to bring felony charges against elected officials who abuse the taxpayer-funded charge cards.

Documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show investigators are scrutinizing a June 2015 transaction involving a flight change. They also show a March 1 refund by the employee.

Dove, Kemp’s aide, would not disclose the name of the staffer under investigation but said it was not Kemp. He said Kemp’s office has also launched its own internal investigation into P-card use and will await the Inspector General’s recommendations.

“We’re fully cooperative,” he said. “And we want to see it resolved.”