Taxpayer Abuse for...Personal Use? - Texas Scorecard

A recent story, led by investigative journalist Mireya Villarreal of CBS News, recently uncovered a shocking abuse of taxpayer funds (click link for CBS story and video).

City of Fort Worth employees have allegedly been using city-provided credit cards on personal items, such as Apple products, car washes, clothes, liquor and a variety other items. Even worse, the city’s policy regarding approved purchases is ambiguous.

Jeff Kloska, the Meacham Airport Manager, charged $3,000 for marketing to the Rotary Club…how generous?

The City justifies many of these charges claiming, for example, that the six hundred dollars of premium liquor purchased over a three month period was used for DWI training. Other questionable charges were dismissed as ‘user errors’ or ‘fraud’. According to the city, over 600 employees have city-provided cards in their name.

Why do so many need expense cards in their own name?

We have reviewed the statements. During the investigation, the city provided explanations for most of the food-related charges; most were for ‘lunch meetings’. But several of the receipts show the purchases were made in the evening. One receipt from Reata totaled over $500…the city provided no explanation for that.

Corporate America will often allow senior staff to expense these types of items as a perk of employment or to entertain business prospects and clients. The difference is that corporations are spending their money.

Government employees already have the luxury of all but guaranteed job security, excellent benefits and defined pensions; they don’t need frivolous spending perks.

In the spring of 2014, the city will ask taxpayers to approve a $300 million bond package, mostly to finance projects related to road construction/improvements and recreational city services, like parks and playgrounds. Fort Worth Mayor, Betsy Price also emphasizes the need for ‘economic development’, an infamous buzz word for taxpayer funded slush.

In light of Texas’ borrowing addiction cited by both the State Comptroller and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, we’ve criticized the rampant use of debt as an imprudent financing strategy.

Perhaps the city could spend more than ten percent of its General Fund on infrastructure projects, like roads? After all, the city allocates more funds annually for ‘Non-Departmental Expenses’ ($73million) than it does on ‘Infrastructure’ ($60million). Debt service consumes $72 million of its $1.2 billion Operating Budget.

At the very least, they could cancel the personal credit card program. Enough is enough.