Editor’s note: The Champion looks at the purchasing card use of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and those of other select P-card holders.
An April 2010 internal audit of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners determined that five of the seven commissioners “did not fully comply” with the county’s purchasing card (P-card) policies and procedures.
Twenty months later, in November 2011, another internal audit revealed that three commissioners “did not comply” with the P-card policy. Among the three commissioners making the list in both audits was Commissioner Elaine Boyer.
In the 2010 audit, Boyer was cited for transactions at restaurants. According to the audit, 12 of the 17 transactions in a sample were for restaurants.
“As stated in the purchasing card policy, the P-card program allows designated employees to purchase business-related goods and services,” the audit stated. “P-card transactions from restaurants could become costly over a 12-month period.”
Fast forward to March 2014.
Boyer, and her chief of staff, Bob Lundsten, came under fire after an investigative report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed that between 2012 and 2013, Boyer and Lundsten together spent more than $11,000 for restaurant meals using their county-issued P-cards.
According to records The Champion obtained after an Open Records Request, the pair spent $5,958.93 in 2013 on food. In the first three months of 2014, Boyer’s office spent $2,289.84 on meals, including a $452.31 tab at McKendricks Steakhouse for a legislative meeting in February and a $190 meal at Seasons 52 for “DeKalb City Staff Budget.”
The purchasing card policy, revised in March 2004, states that “the DeKalb County P-card program is intended to be an alternative method for the purchase of small dollar value, miscellaneous expenses, including materials and services.
“The P-Card is the property of DeKalb County and should only be used for business purposes,” the policy states.
On May 20, Boyer told The Champion that she is “exhausted talking about” P-cards.
“I don’t have anything new to say,” Boyer said.
“The thing that is most distressing is that there is no focus on all the rest of the P-cards,” Boyer said, adding that there are “70 people with P-cards [who] don’t fall under” the county CEO’s authority.
“That’s a lot,” Boyer said. “I know all of them. I’ve looked at them. They are constitutional officers or they work for other elected officials.”
In a March 25 statement, Boyer said, “Over the past several years I have on occasion purchased airfare and related travel expenses using my County P-Card which is a debit card. Over that same period I reimbursed over 90 % of these charges. There was no expense to the County taxpayers.”
A reporter “brought to my attention that I had not reimbursed some of these expenses for 2012 and 2013,” she stated. “That was an oversight for which I accept responsibility and for that I apologize.”
Boyer added that she “immediately reimbursed the expenses from that two year time frame.”
Boyer subsequently suspended her use of the card and said she was unaware that she was in violation of any county policy. An ethics complaint has been filed against Boyer and Lundsten.
In March 2013, four $25 Starbucks gift cards for Tucker Middle School were charged to Lundsten’s card.
Lundsten purchased a $750 office laptop from Best Buy, according to an October 2013 receipt marked “OK per EB.”
The P-card policy states that “all Information Systems, Communications, and Finance Special Approval related purchases will be coordinated/routed through Information Systems, Communications, and Finance Special and will require a requisition and purchase order regardless of the dollar amount.”
In December 2013, Lundsten, Boyer’s chief of staff, paid for two gift baskets at a cost of $49.99 each and another one costing $54.99 for planning, purchasing and water. On the same receipt from The Fresh Market in Dunwoody are three Santa pop-up cards at a cost of $5.99 each.
Additionally, Lundsten paid $12.88 in sales taxes, even though the county “is not required to pay sales tax to any supplier since the county is exempt,” according to the county’s P-card policy.
Also in December 2013, Lundsten paid $50 for a service order for Comcast Internet hookup at 302 Perimeter Center North, Apt. 1208, Atlanta. The address is in the Gables Metropolitan apartment complex.
Boyer said she is not familiar with that address, but would check into it.
Boyer said there should be an audit of all of the county’s P-cardholders.
“I’ve called for it; there should be an audit on all of it,” she said. “I’ve said it a zillion times; no one seems to be doing it.
“I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but [the policy] needs to get clarification. I think [interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May] tried to do that with his new policy.]”
Research assistance by
Travis Hudgons and Donna Turner