CHICAGO (CBS) — After a CBS 2 investigation raised questions about a multi-million dollar spending program in Lake County using purchasing cards funded by taxpayers, results of an outside firm’s investigation have been released. CBS 2’s Mai Martinez found the report came with a hefty price tag.
The company was paid more than $47,000 for about five weeks of work. The report made recommendations on how to improve on the county’s use of the so-called “P-cards,” which after years of minimal oversight, is now under investigation by state police.
“I was shocked by what people would turn in,” said Carol Calabresa, a Lake County Board Member.
Calabresa was not the only one. After CBS 2 requested public spending records for “P-cards” used by all appointed and elected Lake County officials, dozens of questionable purchases were discovered, including several by former Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor.
Lawlor used his taxpayer-funded card for personal purchases, including out-of-state travel, stays in Chicago hotels, meals, and ride shares.
Lawlor, who dropped his re-election bid saying he’s undergone treatment for drug addiction, acknowledged some of the issues, writing, “I may have exceeded meal allowances. It could be misconstrued as a personal charge.”
— Edward Marshall (@edmarshallcbs2) September 26, 2018
“I would like tighter, stricter policy,” said Calabresa, agreeing with one of the recommendations made in the board-commissioned report.
The report looked at 26 P-cards and analyzed nearly $300,000 in purchases over 12 months. Some board members, including Sandy Hart, say the cards are too much trouble and should be done away with.
“If Lake County is the only county, maybe we don’t need P-cards,” Hart stated.
While the report did not directly address the questionable spending, some board members raised concerns of their own, not only with the purchases, but the approval by the Board President.
“It says something about a conflict of interest,” Calabresa said.
Other board members said the cards make payments easier and offer the county an opportunity to earn tens of thousands of dollars in rebates that go into the general fund and would like the program to continue.
“How do we go forward with these procurement cards?” questioned Mike Rummel, a Lake County Board Chairman.
“Fast track this and put the recommendation into place as quickly as possible,” stated Craig Taylor, a Lake County Board Member.
Some board members would like to see a thorough audit of the p-card program going back years, but an audit like that would cost taxpayers up to six-figures.