COLUMBIA — Afterwards giving themselves advanced ascendancy to absorb added than $100,000 in accessible money, Richland Canton Board associates in the accomplished year racked up tens of bags in costs on out-of-state trips, account fuel-ups on claimed cartage and a circadian commons at restaurants alignment from cher steakhouse to fast-food joints, a Post and Courier assay of spending annal shows.
The added than $38,000 spent aback July 2017 appears abundantly acceptable through the county’s arbitrary spending accounts in which the board allocated $12,000 in the aftermost year for anniversary member. The accuse accommodate added than $20,000 on abode and biking for conferences, about $3,200 at restaurants and almost $2,000 on gasoline.
But afterwards indictments adjoin Richmond Canton prosecutor Dan Johnson declared he misspent bags on his government acclaim cards, some board associates said the board should be added cellophane about their own spending and achieve stricter controls.
Councilman Seth Rose has beneath to acquire a government acclaim agenda and appropriate board associates shouldn’t allegation circadian costs like commons and ammunition to taxpayers.
“For my two agreement on council, I accept paid these costs personally,” said Rose, who is abrogation the board to become a accompaniment representative. “I would not feel adequate bushing up my car with gas and assured the taxpayers to aces it up.”
Councilwoman Gwen Kennedy, in her fourth term, has spent added than $11,600 on her government acclaim agenda aback July 2017, the best of any board member, including at atomic $1,750 at gas stations, annal show. But clashing her colleagues, she doesn’t about-face in receipts for the costs she accuse taxpayers. She said it’s not required.
“I’ve never agitated to … but I don’t apperception axis them in,” she said. “It’s no problem.”
Council associates should accumulate receipts for all costs to certificate that accessible money is actuality spent legally, said Gregory Adams, a University of South Carolina School of Law professor.
“It’s a abuse of their duties to the accessible to not accept those receipts,” Adams said.
Richland County’s arbitrary spending accounts date aback several years and are aimed at accoutrement costs apropos to official business like travel, breadth and meals.
Last year, the board voted to access anniversary member’s anniversary spending bulk to $12,000 from $7,000. The board capital added allotment to awning training, associates said.
Since then, board associates accept abundantly acclimated the money to awning biking for conferences, ammunition and food.
Kennedy accuse at gas stations around every week, annal show, about charging $20 to $30 per fill-up.
Other, added analytical costs by board associates accommodate hundreds of dollars in donations to bounded charities, $200 in annoy aliment and $970 spent by Kennedy at accouterment and accoutrement stores.
Kennedy said she afterwards reimbursed those costs aback she accomplished she “pulled the amiss agenda out” during claimed arcade trips. She answerable at accouterment food in at atomic bristles instances in the accomplished two years, including $534 at Stein Mart in February and $119 at JC Penney in August 2017.
Kennedy provided affidavit assuming she paid aback all those expenses. She afresh bought a appropriate case in which to accumulate her government card, she said.
“I’ve paid it aback every time I cull that affair out by mistake,” Kennedy said.
Councilwoman Dalhi Myers answerable $202 in March for annoy aliment to her claimed agent afterwards she collection over bits at a architecture armpit during an official appointment to Atlanta, she said. The canton administrator accustomed the amount afore she charged, Myers said.
Councilman Jim Manning occasionally uses his acclaim agenda addition way — to prop up bounded charities. Aftermost year, he paid $500 to South Carolina Appleseed Acknowledged Justice Center, a acknowledged aid group, and $250 to the Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.
Manning said his payments were meant to aid bounded groups accomplishing acceptable assignment in the community. But payments from an adopted official to alfresco accumulation crosses a red band meant to abstracted spending accessible money for clandestine purposes, Adams said.
“That’s a accommodation that the canton care to make,” Adams said. “It’s not a accommodation that should be absolutely up to the alone board member.”
The canton attorney’s appointment brash Manning that sponsorships for bounded charities are accustomed for alone board members, Manning said. But he’s accessible to befitting that ascendancy with the board as a whole.
“One way or another, we charge to accept consistency,” he said.
Follow Joseph Cranney on Twitter @joey_cranney.
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