It’s important to note up front there’s no indication of any illegal use of county credit cards by employees.
But there’s certainly room to question the appropriateness of how your tax dollars have been spent. That much is clear after a review by The Covington News of billing statements since Jan. 1, 2017.
Consider the use of more than $700 in public money for a Christmas party for employees in one department, including gift cards. Fitbit devices were among incentives bought for a wellness program as well.
These may be nice, and they surely make employees feel appreciated, but they reveal a disconnect between government and the people they are supposed to serve.
Public officials should be miserly in the way they spend our tax dollars. They shouldn’t be looking for an excuse to spend them, but rather ways to avoid it. It seems clear that isn’t the case, at least not with all the employees who have the P-cards, as the purchasing cards are known.
We’ve seen spending on nights in hotels in Atlanta and Athens, nearby cities where an employee may well have commuted to a training instead. Consider the state has strict policies on people getting their rooms paid for if the trip is “local.”
From here, Atlanta is.
And why are two commissioners going to lunch in Covington on your dime? That’s an expense they can pay out of pocket.
Sheriff Ezell Brown was clear he wanted a change in his pay, to a flat monthly expense allowance, so he didn’t have to comply with the rule on disclosing the names of his dinner guests.
“I feel that my personal expense account as well as the personal expense account of other elected constitutional officers are protected by the law and that no one has the right to know who we dine with or personal expense thereof,” Brown said in a statement to The News.
He asks us, the taxpayers of Newton County, to trust that he’d never do anything to embarrass the citizens or the Sheriff’s Office.
Brown then seems to contradict himself, though, saying he “never believed in doing anything for appearance sake.” But if this isn’t about appearances, why are we being kept in the dark?
And why are taxpayers paying to tint windows on an SUV? Or for decorations for the downtown scarecrow contest? Or to buy Dunkin’ Donuts and LongHorn Steakhouse gift cards? Or on multiple meals all across this county, as opposed to on trips for training seminars?
Over the next few weeks, The News will be examining the purchases and giving county officials the chance to explain them. Listen carefully to their explanation and consider the fact they again voted to increase your property taxes.
Would that have been necessary with conservative spending? Maybe, but if so, ask for your invitation to the Christmas party this winter. You’re paying for it.
Our Thoughts is the opinion of The Covington News’ editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher David Clemons and Managing Editor Jackie Gutknecht.