JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Newly obtained documents show systemic
misuse of gasoline cards by Jackson city officials is widespread.
From July to October, an audit of the Fuelman discount gas
program revealed that 945 of the 1,088 employees authorized to use
a card made questionable purchases, resulting in about 24,260
flagged transactions, the newspaper says.
The Clarion-Ledger reported Sunday that documents the Jackson
newspaper recently obtained show the misuse ranges from low-level
employees and to the mayor's office.
The city is not currently investigating employees. The state
auditor's office would not confirm or deny it is investigating.
Among those whose purchases were marked as potential problems
were Mayor Frank Melton and the Jackson police officer in charge of
the department's fleet. Another JPD officer was cited for
questionable purchases 172 times in that 90-day period.
Memos from city leaders show problems have lingered for at least
three years, but city officials have said they cannot single out
honest mistakes from blatant stealing.
"We don't have the internal controls in place to make sure
every drop of fuel is going into city vehicles - and we're aware of
this," said Valerie Nevels, the head of the city's internal audit
City officials did say several public works and police employees
have been arrested in the past after being accused of stealing gas.
They have not estimated how much money the city may have lost in
recent years through Fuelman purchases.
Jackson uses Fuelman to fill up city-owned and operated
vehicles. The service gives the city a 30-cent-a-gallon discount at
The city is working to fix the problems, Nevels said.
In October, the audit division sent notices to employees,
warning them that they would face disciplinary action if they
misuse the gas cards or fail to turn in proper documentation.
The city is starting a three-strikes program. Employees who have
undocumented problem purchases will get a verbal warning first,
then a written report, followed by an unpaid leave or termination,
City staff have reviewed the fuel policies with department
The city has set aside about $4.03 million for fuel this fiscal
year, which started Oct. 1. The city came in under budget for fuel
in 2007-08, budgeting $4.64 million and spending $4.02 million.
On Aug. 1, 2005, Melton and Chief Administrative Officer Robert
Walker sent a memo to department directors saying irregular fuel
charges had been showing up. The memo warned that if those
purchases continued, disciplinary action would be taken. But the
problems continued, eventually raising concerns from the city
Councilman Jeff Weill has proposed that the city reduce the
number of workers with gas cards, prohibit people from manually
keying in card numbers and cut back on the 168 area stations that
accept the cards.
"I want to move forward. I want to solve this problem," Weill
said. "I also want to look back and do something about the
employees who inappropriately used the cards, ranging from
admonitions all the way to firing or prosecution."
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)