Purchasing policies more stringent in Martin

Purchasing policies more stringent in Martin
The city of Martin is changing purchasing policies after receiving a letter last week from the State of Tennessee Comptroller’s office, which held an audit of selected records of the Martin Parks and Recreation Department.
The investigative audit focused on the period of July 1, 2006 through Dec. 21, 2007. The investigation centered use of city-owned property on how items were being purchased which has sparked a new written policy for department heads and city employees as well.
The letter honed in on personal use of park and recreation property, personal purchases charged on the city account, policies regarding credit cards, lack of purchasing policy and adequate oversight over disbursements, expenditures for non-municipal purposes, dual signatures on checks, the personal use of a city vehicle as a fringe benefit not reflected on the employee’s federal Form W-2 and vehicles not displaying a city seal.
Dennis Suiter, the director of the Martin Parks and Recreation Department, was listed as having personal expenditures charged on the city account
Mayor Randy Brundige and City Recorder Chris Mathis said on Monday that restitution has been made.
Due to the letter, a written purchasing policy is under way regarding use of city money.
One issue regarding the city’s policy for credit cards cited that the city had “at least 42 credit and charge cards in the name of the city issued to city employees or departments.”
Mathis said that there were 20 Lowe’s credit cards that had never been activated so that number was misleading.
“I have done away with every credit card in the city,” Brundige stated. “Only department heads will have them now.”
Mathis agreed, “I will be scrutinizing each statement and looking at each bill submitted by the department heads.” He said that many of these new written policies were put into motion starting in January to adhere to a tighter rein on purchasing. “There is a daily log of activity that I will be watching carefully.”
The mayor agreed, “I’ve personally cancelled and destroyed all Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and E.W. James cards.”
In regards to the personal purchases, the letter that implicitly singles out Suiter for purchasing items for his personal residence which included a canopy tent, a surveillance camera and a garage fan. Suiter responded to the state comptroller’s office and the board with an extensive breakdown explaining his response to the auditor’s observations. Several trips by Suiter accompanying the Westview High School and Martin Middle School cheerleading squads also came under scrutiny by the state.
Suiter denies these claims.
Suiter cites in a fax to the Nashville office that the canopy tent was used during a stretch of bad weather at his home and has been removed. The surveillance camera was put at this home to thwart “cheerleaders (or others)” attempting to pull pranks at his home on Halloween. He also supplied the city with extensive paperwork and receipts explaining that no personal expenses were included on his trips to the cheerleading competitions. One order that Suiter made had business for the city and for his personal business with Homeland America. A personal issue that was rectified.
Brundige said, “He (Suiter) has reimbursed the city for $89.98.”
He reiterated though, “Personal charges do not go on the city of Martin credit cards. Not ever.”
Suiter, who announced his retirement effective June 30, said in a letter submitted at the informal board meeting last week that the investigation has been difficult.
“The past several months have been like a nightmare for me and my family.” He went on to write, “accusations were made about me on everything from failure to reimburse funds to an outlandish accusation of purchasing covers for chairs at Obion County Central High school and even stealing toys which are designated for Santa’s Village. This is only the tip of the iceberg.”
In his official retirement letter, Suiter wrote, “I hereby submit my notice for retirement effective June 30, 2008. However, this will leave the Cal Ripken World Series open-ended as well as the Salute to America Plaza grant project. The project must be completed by October 14, 2008 to avoid losing state funds.”
Suiter, said Monday afternoon that the main reason for his retirement plans was due to a policy revision impacting medical insurance. That was the motivating factor for announcing his plans for the end of June..
The mayor also said that the city would be making some changes regarding city-owned transportation. Excluding police vehicles, all city of Martin vehicles will be getting decals to let citizens know what is city property, which was a recommendation in the Comptroller’s letter. The recommendation states, “Clearly marking vehicles as city property reduces the risk that city employees will use them for other than city business.”
Brundige added that the letter was not an actual audit finding, but basically was just “telling us some things we need to do.”

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