City stops use of credit cards in Parks and Rec. - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

City stops use of credit cards in Parks and Rec.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Between 2008 and 2011, the Department of Parks and Recreation spent over $200,000 at Sam's Club. 900 purchases in all - which equals out to about one trip every one and a half days for four years. 

Employees bought gift cards, televisions, DVD's, and iPods for Parks and Rec. activities. But the  auditor says his investigators were unable to track down about 45 of the items purchased. And he says a lack of controls could have resulted in $38,000 in waste. 

"This is a department with a 15 million dollar budget over 200 plus fulltime equivalent employees," said Dr. Carolyn Graham. 

Parks and Rec serves more than 600,000 residents and visitors each year. Dr. Carolyn Graham oversees the department. 

"When I served as the interim director of the department starting in January I found a department that was without a lot of the supports. That reflected sound management," she said. 

The mayor's administration actually asked for this audit and Graham says the results were not shocking. She says they demonstrate exactly why there's been a complete overhaul of Parks and Rec. 

Following a scandal over a $37,000 dollar desk, then Director J.R. Pope Jr. resigned. And since that time, more management problems have come to light and been fixed. 

These Sam's Club credit cards are no longer being used. 

"We will continue to have to make urgent and emergent purchases but that will be done through strong financial controls," Graham said. 

Graham tells me Parks and Recreation often serves some of the city's poorest children. She says at times they show up with no food...or even shoes and employees needed money on hand to feed and clothe them. 

The mayor hired a new Director of Parks and Recreation in April. The city says it's also trying to give Dr. Norman Merrifield more time to make his own changes to the department to ensure the integrity of taxpayer dollars.

PDF: See the results of the audit

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