COVINGTON, Ga. – According to Newton County credit card statements and receipts reviewed by The Covington News, county-issued purchasing cards were used to buy $2,481.82 in gift cards, party supplies and food for a Christmas luncheon.
The charges, made over the period of Nov. 27 to Dec. 13, included $1,400 in gift card purchases from LongHorn Steakhouse, $100 in Applebee’s gift cards, $60 in Chick-fil-A gift cards, Belk gift cards totaling $50 and $10 in Dunkin’ Donut gift cards.
The statement also shows $279.77 in Christmas party gifts from Belk, Kohl’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart and Cracker Barrel. Records also show that more than $600 was spent on food and Christmas luncheon supplies.
According to the Newton County P-card policy, “The purchasing card is to be used only for the purchase of supplies that are deemed necessary for the operation of the county.”
The policy further states “The cardholder shall use the purchasing card for legitimate business purposes only. The purchasing card shall not be used for entertainment, cash or personal use.”
In response to questions from The News about the charges, County Manager Lloyd Kerr said, “The $2,400 you refer to was for the annual budgeted Christmas luncheon for Water Resources personnel, BOC department heads and elected and appointed officials.
“This year the meal was catered for approximately 60 people. Door prizes were also given. The $1,400 gift cards were individual Christmas gifts for the Water Resources personnel. Water Resources is an enterprise fund that receives its revenue from its customers (Jasper County, NCWSA, etc.). It is self-sufficient and receives no support from the General Fund. All purchases were paid from the Water Resources Fund account.
“Just as in the private sector, the legitimate business purpose is employee appreciation. Employees who feel appreciated and are recognized for their contribution to the success of the organization are more productive and efficient.
“All purchases are reviewed and we adhere to a strict policy regarding eligible and allowable purchases. These purchases followed our policies and passed legal scrutiny.”