Thursday, August 29, 2002

This One Boggles The Mind

Once again, this story writes itself. Seems an administrative aide to County Mayor Jim Rout has been caught with roughly $45,000 in questionable County credit card charges. You may recall that Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun's aide, Darrell Catron, has also been caught in similar difficulties. It was the same State Comptroller's team in both cases that looked into them.

But Ed Jones, the aide in question, the mayor’s senior adviser and the County’s public affairs officer, was:
a former reporter for the old Memphis Press-Scimitar, has
worked in Shelby County government more than 20 years and for
all three mayors to date.
So you'd think he knows better, right? Well, read all this:
"I knew that I had those charges and I knew that I was going to
come back and reconcile them," said Jones, 54, who has retained
local attorney Robert Spence.

"I know I should have filed the paperwork in a more timely
manner but it’s just been a very frantic, busy couple of years."

Jones said he did not believe he had broken any policies in using
the card for personal expenses, charged mainly in the last 18

"Looking back I wish I hadn’t. But essentially I was just very, very
busy, working some long hours in the office and it was just a
convenience," he said.

The county’s policy and procedure guide on use of county charge
cards, however, forbids "using the card for the sole benefit of the

Failure to comply with the policy, the guide says, may result in the
immediate revocation of the card and possible disciplinary action.

"I was never told that the policy applied to the mayor and senior
staff, and to my knowledge, (the) finance (department) has never
taken that position or made an inquiry," Jones said.

"And this has been the practice for the mayor and senior staff for
as long as I can remember."
Unbelievable, isn't it? "Hey, I didn't know; I meant to take care of it; everyone else does it." After 20 years he hasn't figured it out yet? Makes you also wonder what else is lurking in other departments.

But the story is also missing some things. In the case of the CA, when something obvious is left out it's damaging, you can bet.

For example, the story doesn't really indicate when the problem came to light, or how. The implication is that the State Comptrollers had some questions for the Mayor's Office. But why did the story only come to light after Jones began to make restitution? The CA reports this:
Jones said he told Rout in April that he planned to reconcile the
paperwork for credit cards in the mayor’s office and would
reimburse whatever he owed and was surprised by the
So the two men knew something was wrong since at least April, if not earlier since that conversation was about restitution. How long has the CA known or suspected?

Note too that the article only says Jones was suspended for a week. Nothing is said about if he was suspended without pay. My guess would be that Jones is still being paid. Some suspension.

Finally, during the past election much was made of the large number of Republican Rout's highest level administrative people lining up behind Democratic candidate AC Wharton. Was Jones one of those people? The CA used this unusual crossover as a sign of Wharton's appeal and integrity. But will Wharton now announce that he's going to look into these people before he takes them on? Or will business continue as usual? Was the CA sitting on this story during the election, for some reason?

You probably already know my guess.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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