June 3, 2011 09:37 AM
Emanuel Cuts City Agency Credit Card Use After BGA/FOX Investigation
In response to our recent investigations into credit card usage at city agencies, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took action to curb abuse.
By BGA and Dane Placko/FOX Chicago News
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CHICAGO—Putting it on plastic is okay if you're paying the bill. But apparently a number of Chicago employees are using their city credit cards to stick it to taxpayers.
On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a memo to his cabinet, and the heads of sister agencies like the Park District, CTA and CHA ordering that credit card usage cease immediately. The memo also ordered that all credit card accounts be terminated.
The mayor writes he has "...learned that government employees have used those cards to pay for expenses such as dinners at expensive restaurants, gift cards, flowers, and, disturbingly, city-issued red light 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."
Last month the BGA and FOX Chicago found Park District Chief of Staff Shawn Schmidt was using his government credit card -- to pay for airline upgrades, pricey meals and fancy hotels -- frequently on behalf of superintendent Tim Mitchell.
Schmidt was suspended and later left the agency.
Mitchell is being replaced.
After that report we began a larger investigation into credit card usage at all of the city's sister agencies.
A spokesman for the mayor says it was while responding to our request that they found troubling abuses, particularly at the CHA.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he applauds the mayor's action, and says those who abused their city credit cards should be suspended or fired.
"For city officials to act like this is just outrageous," Waguespack said.
"They should be forced to pay it back or this should come out of their paychecks. Because if you look at people running red lights and using taxpayer dollars to pay for those tickets, that's outrageous," he said.
Original image (remixed) courtesy Wild Guru Larry/Flickr.