HomeNewsAnalysisAugusta Mayor’s City Credit Card Spending has Little Oversight

Augusta Mayor’s City Credit Card Spending has Little Oversight

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Georgia state law has specific rules on how employees and elected officials can use government credit cards, yet the Augusta Mayor’s Office has managed to use two government-issued credit cards with limited oversight.

MORE: Augusta Mayor Dodges Questions About His Credit Card Statement

One those cards is a P-Card (purchase credit card) issued by the procurement department, and the other is a credit card issued by the finance department. According to the city P-Card policy, proper documentation is required for all purchases. Finance Director Donna Williams indicated that there is not a separate city policy for credit cards.

Purchasing Card Policy & Procedures by augustapress on Scribd

According to Augusta Procurement Department Director Geri Sams, the Procurement Department follows the state law (§ 50-5-80) to the letter. Every dollar spent through using a city-issued purchase card, or P-Card, is tracked, and the receipts are filed, Sams said.

Georgia State Code 50-5-80 (b) states:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to obtain for his or her own personal benefit, or for the benefit of any other person, any goods, services or other things of value, through any resource or method established pursuant to this article, including, but not limited to, purchase orders, government contracts, credit cards, charge cards, or debit cards.”

“We take the P-Card spending very seriously. Employees know that if they can’t provide a receipt, they pay for it out of their pocket. In the last five years, since the new law passed, I have only had an issue with one employee. They all know we are watching,” Sams said.

Augusta P-Cards are only issued to department heads, city attorneys and deputy administrators. According to Sams, elected officials are not allowed to have P-Cards without a full vote of the commission.

None of the ten commissioners has a city credit card.

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The Mayor’s Office stopped using the P-Card in February 2020 when employee Marcus Campbell left the mayor’s staff, according to Petula Burks, the mayor’s chief of staff.

Mayor Hardie Davis continued to use a the city-provided credit card instead of the P-Card since Campbell’s departure.

From 2015 through 2020, the credit card assigned to the mayor averaged $30,905 per year in charges. In the first five months of 2021, charges have added up to $51,253.

Everything from Amazon charges, flowers, fast food purchases, hair and makeup, photography and even city contractual agreements show up on the credit card’s statements.

Credit Card Statements by augustapress on Scribd

P-Cards issued by the Procurement Department have a strict $5,000 per transaction limit. For expenditures over $5,000, the director of procurement must sign off on the charge, according to the city P-Card policy. However, the mayor used his city credit card to pay his new chief of staff, Petula Burks, via PayPal. Burks said she was hired to perform staff recruitment services prior to her being hired as chief of staff. That charge exceeded the $5,000 per transaction limit and was not subject to the normal procurement department competitive bid process.

“My office did not issue a card to the Mayor’s Office. We had nothing to do with that and so, no, we do not get any records on how that card is used,” Sams said.

The city finance department also has no authority over the mayor’s credit card. According to Finance Director Donna Williams, her office does not track expenses. Her office is responsible only for cutting checks to pay invoices that are submitted.

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“We receive the invoices, and we make the payments. We do not get any receipts,” Williams said.

The finance department pays the credit card bill as well as the P-Card bill but does not require the Mayor’s Office to turn in receipts for charges on the credit card.

The Augusta Press has, for months, requested a detailed accounting of the mayor’s expenditures through both the My Brother’s Keeper account, city-issued credit card and the normal operating account. Information has trickled in periodically; however, the majority of what has been requested has still not been provided.

According to the Finance Department, only the mayor’s office has access to the receipts for the credit card.

The mayor engaged a professional resume-writing service to the tune of $485. That expense covered updating the mayor’s resume to reflect the numerous boards that he sits on as mayor, according to the Burks.

Copy of receipt for Mayor Davis professional resume service.

Augusta commissioners were set to discuss the matter with an item placed on the agenda by District 8 Commissioner Brandon Garrett on Tuesday, but Garrett removed the item just prior to the meeting, saying he needed a little more time to study the state law before igniting what might become a firestorm.

MORE: Augusta Mayor’s Financial Records Produce More Questions Than Answers

“I am very concerned about this, but I felt it was better to wait and study the law a little bit more so that I can come up with my questions that I feel the public needs to hear an answer to,” Garrett said.

Scott Hudson is the Editorial Page Manager of The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected].

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Past time for an audit of these expenses. Any time I had expenses for business purchases I had to produce receipts. No receipt, purchase was out of my pocket. Unfortunately the mayor seems to have deep pockets – Taxpayer’s. The commission members need to act as this is already out of control, not quite double (51000.00) the monies since last year (31000.00). Do something.

  2. So does he eat lunch daily on the city’s dime? I can see when he’s meeting with others to discuss business, but there are a lot of fast food type charges on there. I’d like to hear the Jose Cuervo explanation.

  3. What was $12 on Amazon prime for? Are we paying for his hotel Movies? When adding his car/gas/insurance/maintenance and now these unexplained credit card charges and let’s not forget his PayPal account, what is his salary. That’s some high dollar ribbon cutting tie breaker vote (which seldom happens) position.

  4. Given the Mayor’s proclivity for spending money willy-nilly and then refusing to produce receipts and other proof, the Board of Commissioners should order an audit of that credit card immediately. The Mayor is no more special than the Commissioners or any employee authorized to have a credit card. He must be held accountable!

  5. I just cannot believe that a city accounting office would just pay a bill presented with no approval or documentation. This, too, is just bad practice and would never pass an audit. Come on commissioners! Do your job!

  6. I worked for 40 years with the state and always had to submit receipts for any charges on cards or charges to be reimbursed. Even a charge for 5.00 must be documented, If I purchased something to be used at work, the receipt and merchandise was documented by a 2nd party. No receipts no payment or reimbursement.

  7. Not surprised when it comes to the Mayor and his fleecing of the tax payers. There is a special place in hell for individuals like Hardy Davis and those politicians that sit by and do nothing while corruption is taking place in Augusta’s government. We must vote these type of low life individuals out of office and never support them again.

  8. I wonder how he manages his personal account. Probably does not need one as long as he can spend the Counties money. These politicians have a penchant for spending other folks money. They have no shame.

  9. Geri Sams needs to hit the road too. Any public employee who turns her back to Davis’ obvious end run around the procurement process and his personal misuse of public money doesn’t understand her fiduciary duty and the intent of laws that control government spending.

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