Official explains bills for motels

The county commissioner said she has nothing to hide and did nothing illegal with a county credit card.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's impossible to be in two places at the same time.
But, according to Mahoning County Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock's motel receipts, she pulled it off twice.
County credit-card receipts on file with the auditor's office show Sherlock charging a $52.22 stay at a Super 8 Motel in Marietta on Aug. 22, 2000, as well as a $333.47 bill for a stay at the Hampton Inn in Cincinnati, more than 200 miles away, from Aug. 22, 2000, to Aug. 25, 2000.
Also, the commissioners' journal shows Sherlock attended a commissioners' meeting Aug. 24, 2000 -- a day before she supposedly returned from Cincinnati -- at which she authorized her Marietta visit.
Sherlock, who has already had to explain two other trips she took using a county credit card, said the bill from the Hampton Inn is a mistake. Sherlock said she was at the Cincinnati hotel for only one night, not three.
"I can't physically be in two places at the same time," she said. "I would not be this dumb over a trip to Marietta or Cincinnati. It's absolutely insane. We're not talking Vegas."
Cincinnati trip: Sherlock said she went to a county commissioners conference Aug. 22 in Marietta and checked into the Super 8, but she never spent the night there. Instead, Sherlock said she and Leo Jennings, her boyfriend and an area political consultant, drove that night to Cincinnati and checked into the Hampton Inn at 11:58 p.m. Sherlock said she and Jennings were planning to go to Cincinnati on Aug. 23 but decided to get a head start.
When first asked why she and Jennings visited Cincinnati, Sherlock said she could not remember. About two hours later, she said she went to Cincinnati to check out the Hamilton County One-Stop Job and Family Services office.
Sherlock said she and Jennings returned to the Hampton Inn room Aug. 23 and requested a late checkout to complete work. The two left at 5 p.m. Aug. 23, ate dinner in Columbus -- with Sherlock billing the county for $28.09 of the $49.94 meal -- and returned to Mahoning County later that night. She then voted Aug. 24 to approve the Marietta trip at a commissioners meeting.
Besides Aug. 22, Hampton Inn charged for a night's stay Aug. 23, even though Sherlock said she and Jennings left at 5 p.m. that night, as well as Aug. 24, when she said she was not there.
Sherlock said she does not know why she did not catch the extra charge initially, but the county contested it. Sherlock said she contacted the hotel manager who promised to straighten out the problem. But county officials have not produced evidence that there was a reimbursement for the extra day's charge. The county paid the Hampton Inn bill, with the extra charge, in December 2000.
Cites enemies: "I have nothing to hide," Sherlock said. "I've done nothing wrong. I've done nothing illegal or unethical. There are political enemies who choose to do this."
Sherlock, Jennings and county Administrator Gary Kubic specifically pointed to Tom Zamary of Poland, a political activist who was one of the people to bring the county commissioner's reimbursements on the Marietta and Cincinnati trips to the attention of The Vindicator, as one of those political enemies.
"Somebody clearly has an ax to grind and is using these issues to take away from the good we're doing," Sherlock said.
Response: Zamary said he finds Sherlock's explanation to not be credible.
"I find her scenario to be unbelievable," he said. "That they would expect people to believe that is preposterous. The entire situation with respect to travel and credit cards needs to be brought to the attention of the state auditor. My concern isn't limited to the antics of Vicki Sherlock. Mahoning County government has been operated like a corner grocery store."
County Commissioner Ed Reese said he remembers the Marietta trip but does not recall Sherlock's trip to Cincinnati.
"Everyone has to be accountable for their travel," Reese said. "There might be some sloppiness coming from this. Her bills are in question. It's her responsibility."
When asked if Sherlock acted responsibly with the county credit card, Reese said he did not know.
County Commissioner David Ludt said he plans to have a statement on Sherlock's use of credit cards Thursday.
"We're checking into it," he said. "We're taking everything into consideration."
Sherlock said she wants a committee to review the county's credit-card policy.