The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors next week is set to authorize an internal audit and tighter oversight of employee credit card use, a move prompted in part by recent public records requests by The Press Democrat.
The plan includes a call for improved "internal controls" on who gets county-issued credit cards and how they are used.
It also spells out existing and new checks to detect when the use is improper, and when they are detected, steps to make sure taxpayers are reimbursed.
The plan comes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, five days after county officials responded to a Press Democrat public information request by turning over records for 344 cardholders and 20,000 county credit card transactions in the past two years.
They show a total of nearly $4.4 million on charges for services and supplies, travel, lodging, meals and other goods, all ostensibly for the purpose of county business.
(Search Search Sonoma County employee credit card charges <a href="http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/99999999/MULTIMEDIA/130209934/1350">here.</a>)
The spending, which in 2011 and 2012 represented 0.3 percent of the county's annual $1.2 billion budget, nevertheless has come under scrutiny amid heightened tension over cuts to county services. Divisions over pay and benefits between rank-and-file employees — few of whom have county cards — and elected officials and managers have also fueled interest in the credit receipts.
The bills range from $2,500 for government retreats, public meetings and mapping software to office supply and parking purchases of less than a dollar.
Spending among individuals topped out at $182,700, the amount charged by a county Water Agency engineer responsible for information technology purchases for his office.
County department heads and managers in Human Services, the pension system, the Water Agency and the airport occupied other slots among the top 30 spenders, all of whom spent at least<NO1><NO> $35,000. Many of the top 10 held jobs that involved purchasing responsibilities.
County supervisors, who often take the most heat for their out-of-county junkets, were further down the list. Three members at the time — Valerie Brown, Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo — exceeded the $12,000 average for all cardholders. Supervisors David Rabbitt and Mike McGuire came in closer to the median of $5,300.
Sixty percent of the total spending was for services and supplies, 12 percent for lodging, 11 percent for professional memberships and conference dues, 7 percent for airfare, and 4 percent for food. The remaining 6 percent came from charges for fuel, car and equipment rental, parking and transportation and other services.
County officials say the credit program, in place since 2000 and open mostly to managers, elected officials and some field workers, saves more than $250,000 annually in reduced paperwork and processing for smaller transactions.
In compiling the records, county administrative officials said they found only "a couple" cases where employees had used their county cards for personal purchases. They said the charges were later reimbursed. An exact number of individuals involved or the amount or type of their purchases was unavailable Friday and could not be identified by The Press Democrat in its initial analysis.
In other cases, employees used the cards for services and supplies that are supposed to be bought through standard purchase orders, such as computer equipment, administrative officials said.