Mayor orders city agency employees to stop using their government-issued credit cards
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter June 3, 2011 10:20PM
In addition to banning the use of credit cards by city sister agency employees, Mayor Emanuel has also ordered an audit of all city-owned credit card accounts. | Sun-Times file
Updated: July 8, 2011 3:41PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday ordered city sister agency employees to immediately stop using government-issued credit cards, after his office learned that some workers used the cards to pay for meals at pricey restaurants, flowers and city-issued red-light camera tickets.
“This is completely unacceptable to me, and I am troubled by the disrespect this shows for the hard-earned dollars taxpayers give the city of Chicago,” according to the memo, which was issued after WFLD-Channel 32 news reported a series of stories about credit card abuses at the Park District.
Emanuel also ordered each sister agency to “terminate any credit card agreements that provide credit cards to individuals for general use,” and the mayor said he was “suspending all employee reimbursement plans until reformed policies for reimbursement are adopted.”
The mayor’s office said it uncovered the abuses during an Emanuel-ordered review of all city departments.
“The mayor asked all commissioners during the transition for a top to bottom review of sister agencies,” mayoral spokeswoman Tarrah Cooper said Saturday. “He wanted to know about their operations line by line — all of their positions, and secondly, about their spending, as part of a request that each cut 10 percent from their budgets.”
WFLD and The Better Government Association subsequently submitted Freedom of Information requests regarding the Park District and Chicago Housing Authority, she said.
The WFLD-TV report revealed Park District Supt. Tim Mitchell’s chief of staff Shawn Schmidt was using his government credit card to pay for airline upgrades, pricey meals and fancy hotels. Mitchell announced Wednesday that he is going to step down from his office in the coming weeks.
A Park District source confirmed the mayor ordered a stop on Park District workers’ use of their credit cards.
Emanuel’s directive applies to all city sister agencies, which include the Park District, CHA, CTA, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago. Some of the worst abuses occurred at the CHA, officials said. The city itself doesn’t allow employees to have government-issued credit cards.
In addition to banning the use of credit cards, the mayor has also ordered an audit of all city and sister agency expenditure and reimbursement policies.
Contributing: Stefano Esposito