The debate regarding what constitutes fraud and an honest mistake continues to rage at the Brown County Courthouse as commissioners create a comprehensive credit card policy.
Brown County Judge Paul Lilly rejected a proposal to alter the credit card policy in order to create a streamlined procedure for unauthorized charges.
“I think county employees will support me in this. We should be held to a higher standards as government employees,” Lilly said. “… Outside of verifiable accidents all matters with personal use of a county credit card we will take immediate disciplinary action up to and including termination by the department head and will be referred to a law enforcement agency for prosecution. I don’t see any wiggle room there. We’re entrusted with those county funds.”
Lilly’s statement comes a week after Brown County Auditor Jessica D. Robinson brought the idea before the commission. Robinson sought to create a procedure which deducts outstanding unauthorized county credit card charges from a county employee’s check upon the employee’s discharge of employment. Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill and Shane Britton, county attorney, questioned whether adding such language into county policy would inadvertently obfuscate employees of potential charges of defrauding the county.
Lilly said the only loophole to his zero tolerance policy is a verifiable accident. For instance, if a county employee uses his or her Amazon account in order to obtain free shipping for the county, then logs onto his or her account the next day and orders an item without realizing he or she is still using a county issued credit card.
“We’re talking about public funds. This is no disrespect to the county auditor, but what I am recommending is more strict than what she is recommending,” Lilly said. “I’m on her side, I just this it ought to be a zero tolerance other than the variable accident exception. That’s county funds and they should not ever, under any circumstances, be used for a personal purchase.”
Robinson and the county commissioners agreed to table the issue until next Monday’s meeting in order to add the stricter language into the policy, then present it to the council for a final vote. Robinson previously stated creating a system of accountability is crucial because many employees have access to county credit cards, including many first responders who use the cards to refuel their gas tanks.
“I don’t know the exact number (of cards in circulation) because the sheriff’s department has to use them for fuel. The elected officials have one, I have one. I don’t know the exact number, which is why we have to keep a tight lid on it,” said Robinson, following the March 18 county commission meeting. “We have to monitor all of these. Yes, they’re needed, but we don’t want them just going willy-nilly … When someone is given control, you never know if something catastrophic has happened in their lives. You never know. It’s our job to make sure the county does not put itself in a place to be abused.”
County commissioners also:
Received a report they may have accidentally violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by having more than two commissioners attend a meeting regarding FEMA reimbursements for road and bridge work. Took no action on implementing a burn ban. Reviewed a $123,280 bid for remodeling the kitchen inside the Brown County Jail.