MAHONING COMMISSIONERS Credit card policy to undergo revisions

The prosecutor found no wrongdoing.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners are tightening controls on their credit card policy after a noncounty employee's airplane ticket was charged to a county card.
A red flag went up when commissioners' staff received an American Express bill for a trip that Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock was to take last month to Chicago for an environmental seminar.
The bill contained charges for Sherlock's airplane ticket as well as that of Leo Jennings, a friend who was going to travel with her. The trip was canceled, though, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Sherlock said there was apparently a misunderstanding between her staff and the travel agent when reservations were made. She has traveled with friends before and they've always paid their own way, she said.
Instead of putting Jennings' travel on his own credit card, it was inadvertently charged to the county's card. Sherlock said she did not instruct her staff to charge Jennings' travel to the county card.
"Once it was brought to my attention, I corrected it," she said. "I don't even want the hint of impropriety."
Sherlock said she paid the $126.50 for Jennings' air fare, as well as a $14 credit card service charge, the same day the bill came because that's when it was brought to her attention.
The airline did not reimburse the county for the unused tickets, but did issue a credit for future air travel, Sherlock said.
Found nothing wrong: Prosecutor Paul Gains said he looked into the matter at the commissioners' request and saw nothing wrong.
"It hasn't cost the county a dime," Gains said. "Somebody made a mistake and it was corrected. That should be the end of it."
He recommended, though, that commissioners shore up their credit card policy to keep it from happening again.
Sherlock said commissioners will send a memo to local travel agencies they deal with informing them that only county employees are authorized to charge travel expenses to a county credit card. If an unauthorized person's name appears on a travel expense it should be rejected.
Issues: "Our credit card policy as it stands right now doesn't really address that," Commissioner Ed Reese said. "I think we need to review that policy and make changes so this doesn't happen again."
Part of that change would be requiring that cards be used only by employees of the department to which they are issued.
The charges for Sherlock's and Jennings' travel expenses were on a card issued to John Cox, assistant director of the recycling division. Sherlock said she used Cox's card because the commissioners' credit card balance had not been paid at the time and the company would not allow any more charges.
Reese said that's not uncommon because of the time it takes to process bills through the county's system.