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WASTE WATCH: Is a Hendersonville Official Using Your Tax Dollars For Cash Advances and Personal Clothing?
Updated: Thursday, February 6 2014, 12:13 PM CST
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Waste Watch: Hendersonville
New developments tonight in our continuing Waste Watch investigation in Hendersonville...
We're delving further into credit card charges in Nashville's North Shore and tonight, questionable purchases by the public works director that Hendersonville taxpayers are on the hook for.
Hendersonville's Public Works department oversees miles of roadway,
picks up 50 thousand cans of trash twice a week, and keeps lights and traffic signals in working order daily.
However, while the public works crews are hard at work, a deeper look at their boss's credit card bills would indicate he spends at least some of his time
Public Works Director Jerry Horton, on his city credit card, bought a rain jacket, 2 pairs of pants and a sable jacket at the Greene Military store ~not in Hendersonville~, but in Nashville spending $198 in tax dollars.
He went shopping at Academy Sports spending another $318 on Magellin shirts, Columbia bonehead shirts, mechanic pants, and a buffalo cap.
Notice, the store charged him sales tax refusing Horton tax exempt status which is standard on all government purchases.
I checked and Hendersonville already spends $4800 of your tax dollars every year on uniform service for the Public Works Department that means workers in the department don't need to buy clothes for work.
As some citizens expressed frustration at a recent board meeting, one Hendersonville optometrist is doing something about it.
Dr. Eric Stamper says the city should curtail access to the city credit card and require itemized receipts and better record keeping. Our original report showed 31 city employees have access to the card.
Dr. Stamper says in large part because of Fox 17's Waste Watch reporting on credit card use in Hendersonville, which exposed thousands of dollars spent on exercise equipment and fitness magazines along with pizza and cake, his group Sumner United For Responsible Government is calling for the city to revamp its credit card program and require receipts with great detail on purchases. He says, "It's just basic business practice."
We once again wanted to talk with city officials, including the public works director, about the purchases. I went to city hall and asked for Jerry Horton. Horton again, wasn't available and didn't return my email or phone calls, but the Economic & Community Development Director Don Long did call and says all of the Academy Sports clothing was for a new female employee and the Army store clothing was for Jerry Horton.
Long says he wasn't sure why Horton didn't utilize the uniform service.
In an interview last week, Mayor Scott Foster, says there are no plans to revamp the credit card system.
I asked, "There are more than 30 people who have access to this credit card. Do you think that's fiscally responsible?"
Mayor Foster answers, "Well, it's less than 8% of my staff & again I think our system works."
Alderwoman Arlene Cunningham disagrees, "That's not the alderman's money, not the mayor's money, not the city hall's money. That's the taxpayer's money and we have over 50 thousand taxpayers in the city that are contributing to that."
We also found a $75 charge that says cash advance. Long says it's not a cash advance, it is a finance charge after Horton didn't pay his credit card bill on time.
Neil Siders with the online newspaper Everything Hendersonville says, "That's, I think disturbing to our citizen because we don't contribute tax dollars for one person's benefit. We contribute tax dollars for the entire city's benefit."
Fox 17 also learned Horton purchased some of the same trees the city bought to install near city hall. Bank records show Horton paid $760 for his personal trees.
However, public works employees planted the trees on his personal property during their work day.
Loren Perdue, a former public works employee says, "All of this was on city time with city equipment, city vehicles with city employees."
I talked to Horton's neighbors to find out what they saw. One neighbor said she recalled it was during business hours, but said she could be wrong.
Horton responded through the city's Economic & Community Development director Don Long who says the public works employees apparently misunderstood Horton and didn't realize they were supposed to plant the trees in their 'off' time.
The city says Horton paid them separately for their labor.
Hendersonville's municipal code specifically states that employees can not use official time, equipment or resources for private gain.
I've brought all of these latest discoveries to the state comptroller's office.
You can keep up with all of our Waste Watch investigations at Fox17.com.
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