Kennesaw’s no-policy credit-card policy is Dumb and Dumber
by Dick Yarbrough
November 02, 2013 12:00 AM | 1148 views | 2 2 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
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Dumb and Dumber. No, we aren’t talking Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels here. This is about how the city of Kennesaw manages or doesn’t manage its credit card policy.

As reported by Hannah Morgan in the MDJ last week, the city has no formal policy for the use of city-issued credit cards. None, unless you count a single sentence in the city charter that says the mayor and city council after presenting itemized vouchers shall be reimbursed for their “actual and necessary expenses” in the performance of their duties. Beyond that, it is whatever the mayor and members decide is “necessary” and — most importantly — it is after the fact. Dumb.

Mayor Mark Matthews’s response to the no-policy policy was a bit high-handed. He told Morgan, “It would be a waste of time to document reimbursements” and added that failure to do so might upset “the idiots that like to look at the nickels-and-dimes stuff.” So, does asking elected officials to document how they are spending taxpayer money make We the Unwashed “idiots?” Dumber.

Former Mayor Leonard Church, running for a seat against Councilman Bruce Jenkins (who has charged $6,500 since January), doesn’t get it, either. He told the MDJ that a credit card policy isn’t necessary.



“We are all grownups here,” he says. “It’s not the card’s fault; it is the one using it.” Precisely. That is why you need a policy, to be sure the adults among them don’t do something dumb like buying a $30 guidebook to the National Cathedral as did Mr. Jenkins, saying he hoped to teach Kennesaw Youth Council members about the cathedral.

Let’s not tell this grownup that the kids can find more information about the National Cathedral online faster than he can turn the pages of his book and it doesn’t cost them $30 to do it. Otherwise, he is liable to take big-time advantage of Kennesaw’s no-policy credit card policy. (“Hello. Is this Amazon? I’d like to buy the Internet, please. Do you take American Express?”)

I wonder if the grownups have considered a scenario in which they might be at a trade show in, say, New Orleans looking over used Civil War locomotives and accidentally end up in some honky-tonk on Bourbon Street, wearing funny hats and beads and drinking Hurricanes. Before the evening is over, they decide to buy a three-legged goat and a box of frogs and charge it to the taxpayers.

At the next city council meeting, I assume they would face their perplexed constituents and defiantly justify their decision. (“What is the big honking deal here? It is just as we said. It wasn’t the credit card’s fault. It was the grownups. After the third Hurricane, we decided that what Kennesaw needed was a three-legged goat and a box of frogs. No rules against that. Anybody here want a frog?”)

What the Kennesaw card sharps fail to recognize — or maybe “accept” is a better word — is that theirs is a public trust and being able to spend the taxpayer’s dollar however they wish without institutional controls in place further erodes our trust in the political process. From their “let ’em eat cake” responses, I’m not sure they really care.

After getting caught with his policy drawers down, Matthews did what all righteously-indignant politicians do. He blamed it on the press.

“I have always understood the necessity of communicating with members of the press,” he said. “I have responded to questions without strict filters because I trusted that my answers would be reported accurately and in the context of the conversation. It is a sad statement on journalism that comments I made are twisted and manipulated to satisfy some unknown hidden agenda. If the press is looking for corruption in Kennesaw, they won’t find it.”

Nobody has said anything about corruption, Mr. Mayor. The issue is a non-existent policy that allows you and your city council members to spend public money — not your money, but public money — any way you choose. Even a three-legged goat will tell you that this can invite future misappropriation of funds and corruption. Journalism is not the sad statement here; it is the lack of oversight in the city of Kennesaw’s fiscal governance policies.

The press didn’t cause this brouhaha. Kennesaw city officials brought it on themselves with their no-policy credit card policy. I would suggest that the grownups change their rules sooner rather than later.

To refuse to is dumb. To think the issue is going away is dumber. For the citizens of Kennesaw to let their elected officials get by with this stuff is the dumbest.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
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Bruce Jenkins
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November 02, 2013
A recent article published highlighted the desperate need for a "per diem policy" in our city, as a resident for 23 years and homeowner. Questions, great questions are needed to be asked and answered I personally draw from the article. Some facts are left dimly lit and are haunting, strained from view in many cases that are sited in the article. I personally understand a budget and wasteful spending. I voted against the recent budget because of the increased revenue usage? I voted against the only tax increase in nearly 20 years. I personally always desire not only policies that are transparent, accurate and detailed, but worthy of citizen trust. The recent article encourages these and many other important points that our city and, it's City Clerk does with attention to not only detail but lawful regulations in accountability.

Some examples of purchases mentioned:

1.) $113.00 at PaPa Johns for Pizza, this was for lunch for our City's eight member Youth Council, their three sponsors, administrators on a visit to the State Capitol with Senator Tippens and Rep. Setzler allowing them to save money by having lunch in their office rather than going to a local restaurant, (in this area, more expensive and less personal time with these elected officials).

2.) Dicks sporting goods, for shirts summer and winter shirts for again for the eight member City's Youth Council and their sponsors with monograming their names with the city logo, their "uniform" for this year long leadership training.

3.) At the National League of Cities Conference in DC, The purchase at the Pink-berry Ice Cream shop mentioned, after dinner, along with many others in attendance was purchased by another City official from Denver, I felt Kennesaw's hospitality should be shown to the other guests in attendance and purchase their ice cream, a $25.00 investment.

Why was I attending the NLC convention and looking after the Youth Council, or going to the Dairy Queen to meet a ailing Council member to update him by the giving of care with city business, simple answer. If you notice and take time to see, hear and understand the facts...in many cases, its simple, I cared for a fellow council member, Bill Thrash and many others. In his case, I tried to care for a dream that we didn't want to see die with him. His legacy of being named to the NLC's Youth Education & Families Commission, etc. The list goes on, in this parade of specters, but to stop, point out that even in this season of ghosts and goblins, this is not a "which hunt"; it is a need for clarity, team work. Our community needs to gain the facts and grasp what we are doing with their funds. For those who take the time, their are reasons I do what I do, it is not for personal gain, personal consumptions, it is simple. My mentor taught me that simply breaking bread with someone was the greatest clear sign of acceptance. My mentor demonstrated this with the simple act of inviting himself to Zacchaeus's home for dinner. Just mediate on the mission, discover the reasons and purpose for expenses, these can usually be found or should I say demonstrated in something as simple as what I call "Character".

Fond regards,

Bruce
KennesawDoc
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November 02, 2013
Thank you for your column. Couldn't have said it better. FINALLY someone is taking notice of what we have been trying to get to the public's attention for years. Credit cards are tip of the iceberg. They have been spending money on their pet projects outside of the approved budget for years.
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