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June 03, 2011

  • News:  Chicago's Mayor; Cut Them Up 

    Chicago's new Mayor Rahm Emanuel has hit the ground running and he has his sites set on cutting spending. On Friday, city credit card misuse had been brought to his attention. After a review revealed some employees used the cards to pay off red-light camera tickets as well as gifts, flowers and expensive dinners, he put a stop to credit card use by the Chicago Park District, Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago and the CTA. The mayor issued a memo that ordered all credit card accounts be terminated. He went on to say this behavior was unacceptable and shows a great disrespect to the taxpayers of Chicago.

    Emanuel is requiring each agency to reform their reimbursement policies. All reimbursements are to be suspended until the new policies are adopted. The City Comptroller, Amer Ahmad, has been asked to lead an audit of city and sister agency credit card and reimbursement policies to ensure taxpayer money is being used for appropriate City operations. The bulk of the bad behavior was discovered at the CHA, according to the mayor's spokesperson Chris Mather, but it's not clear that their inappropriate credit card use was an actual violation of the agencies' policy. Mather said that the problem could be an overly vague or badly worded policy.

    Last month Fox-32 Chicago and the Better Government Association reported on the questionable use of a credit card by Park District Chief of Staff Shawn Schmidt, who frequently did so behalf of his boss. Schmidt was suspended and has since left the agency and Park District Superintendent Timothy Mitchell announced he would step down mid-month. While responding to this investigation Emanuel conducted a “top to bottom” check of all city departments and discovered troubling card abuses, particularly at the CHA. Alderman Scott Waguespack is suggesting employees who abused their cards be required to pay it back and suspended or fired.

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