Proposal would clamp down on government credit cards

The Columbus Dispatch | Marty Schladen

At least four local governments in Ohio have credit cards whose limits are $1 million or more. Two have limits north of $5 million.

And, according to a recent survey, almost half of local governments do not have a list of allowable credit-card expenses for employees, and 10 percent have no rules governing the issuance or use of credit or debit cards.

To protect local taxpayers, state Auditor Dave Yost and Rep. David Greenspan, R-Westlake, are proposing legislation that would restrict the use of such cards.

At a press conference Wednesday, Yost used a problem that arose in Mount Sterling as a “poster-child” example of what can happen in the absence of strong controls.

The village administrator there, Joseph Johnson, racked up $331,000 on the village credit card as part of $724,000 in improper expenditures on vehicles, a camper, home appliances and other items he used to benefit himself and his friends.

Johnson pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his raid on village finances and, in March, was sentenced to 10 years in prison — but not before he plunged the village of 1,800 into a state of fiscal emergency.

To get a handle on whether other local governments are vulnerable to a similar financial disaster, Yost’s office surveyed the entities it audits. It received responses from 1,646, or about a third of those asked.

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