Last month, Hartford city council members and the public began raising eyebrows over Hartford city employees charging thousands of taxpayer dollars on dinners, travel and additional expenses.
On Monday, Mayor Hartford Pedro Segarra said he is barring city employees from using city purchasing cards for business entertainment and his chief of staff will be reimbursing the city for a New Year’s Eve dinner.
In late April, Hartford City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy raised questions about the charges at a time when the city faces a $70 million deficit.
One of the charges on the city purchasing card was a $700 dinner at Max’s Downtown charged to the card of Jared Kupiec, Mayor Segarra’s chief of staff.
“It wasn't my intention to go out and buy a dinner at the city's expense, let's put it that way,” Mayor Segarra said when questioned about it. On Monday, the mayor’s office released two statements about the P-card purchases.
“Over the last few weeks much has been made about a New Year’s Eve dinner that was partially paid for with my City of Hartford purchasing card. Because of the distraction that it has caused, and after speaking with the Mayor, I will be immediately reimbursing the City of Hartford in the amount of $457.21. There are too many other more significant matters that leadership in the Capital City needs to focus its attention on,” Kupiec said in a statement. “Those in public service should and need to be held to a higher standard and I truly apologize to city staff, residents and anyone else who has been unfairly consumed with this issue.”
An audit released on Friday showed that Hartford city workers charged $761,000 on P-cards over nine months. The audit found that almost all of the transactions were justified, but that the program needs more oversight and documentation.
“I'm troubled by the findings. Clearly the controls weren't in place that need to be in place. Oversight of the credit card program wasn't there,” Shawn Wooden, the city council president, said.
The audit shows that 180 employees have the cards and the mayor said the program was designed to expedite purchasing.
In response, the city's finance department said it will stop allowing P-cards to be used for what it calls "business entertainment."
Segarra said in a statement on Monday that he, “in accordance with the recommendation by the Internal Auditors,” will eliminate us of P-cards for "business entertainment."
“The Finance Department will remove all applicable merchant category codes for dining and restaurants effective immediately,” Segarra said in a statement.
“Constant review, analysis and sound management of all city operations has been a hallmark of my time as Mayor and these actions are consistent with my philosophy,” he said in a statement. “I have always tried to do what is right for Hartford including investing in arts, education and economic development opportunities that have improved the overall quality of life in our City. I want the people of Hartford to know that I am out there on their behalf every single day and will continue to be in the months and years ahead.”