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Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

D.A. subpoenas Topeka records on purchases by city employees

Mayor defends oversight, says expenditures were proper

August 2, 2003

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— A prosecutor has demanded records of purchases by municipal employees, according to Mayor Butch Felker, who finds himself defending the city's oversight and some of the expenditures.

Felker said Thursday that Shawnee County Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht subpoenaed records of purchases made this year with procurement cards. About 280 employees carry the "P-cards," which allow them to buy items for the city worth less than $1,000.

Last year, such purchases totaled $1.9 million and included $483 for tickets to a concert by rapper Ludacris. City Council member John Alcala raised questions about the spending, but administrators balked at his request to see records for the current year.

Felker said the city provided adequate oversight of card use, noting that two employees were fired last year for using cards to buy $699 worth of food between them at Puffy's Steak & Ice House in December.

As for the rap tickets, Felker said they went to teenage volunteers who helped raise money for a recreation center. He said the city was reimbursed.

"We monitor P-Cards constantly, and if there are concerns, we'll check it out," Felker said. "But we keep a pretty good handle on it."

Alcala said his questions about the purchases were valid. The council is considering whether to raise property taxes or cut programs to cover a projected $3.8 million shortfall in its budget for 2004.

Hecht would not confirm or deny that he had subpoenaed the records.

"But in the event that the office is involved in any investigation, when it is concluded, the normal response would be to make the result of it public," Hecht said.

Felker said he did not know Hecht's reasons for subpoenaing the records.

Meanwhile, Felker sought to address 2002 purchases Alcala questioned.

For example, he said an expenditure at Priscilla's, an adult entertainment store, was made by a youth theater director, for feather boas for a show.

And, he said, a $350 gift certificate for the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., was a going-away present for a former administrative officer.

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