Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Jefferson County attorney under fire

Commissioners cancel Vanderbilt’s credit card

August 22, 2001

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Jefferson County commissioners have canceled the county attorney's credit card, saying he hasn't produced receipts verifying nearly $4,000 in charges.

They're also peeved about Jim Vanderbilt's county cell phone bills. Commissioners said the phone bills have ranged from $600 to $700 per month for at least each of the past three months.

"There's no reason for a phone bill like that," Commissioner Travis Oliver said.

Vanderbilt didn't return calls to the Journal-World. But he hasn't been responsive to commissioners' questions, either, they say. The credit card and phone issues have been a source of concern

That's why they canceled his credit card.

"This has been an on-going matter, and he really hasn't responded to us about it," for months, said Commissioner Francis Grollmes.

"He needs to be accountable just like other employees," Commission Chairman George Mathews said.

Commissioners have a list of where the credit card assigned to Vanderbilt was used and how much was spent. That comes with the bill, Commissioners said. But county employees who use the cards are required to turn in receipts for the expenditures, verifying them, they said.

The commissioners say Vanderbilt has not responded to messages they've left asking about the credit card and phone. Nor has he showed up at commission meetings.

In reaction, commissioners reduced the county attorney's budget by $5,000 for the year 2002. The money was taken out of a line item they think would have been used to pay for his cell phone calls, Mathews said. They estimate that would limit cell phone expenses to $1,800 for the year, he said.

"The county attorney has a lot of leeway with what he does with his budget, but we can limit that budget," Mathews said.

Concerning the credit card, commissioners have seen meal bills that "were considerably higher" at times than county requirements, Mathews said. The county requires $6 limit for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $12 for dinner.

Special allowances could be made for paying for business meals for others, Matthews said.

"All we're asking him to do is be a good steward with the county's money," Oliver said.

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