City reviewing credit card policies; Misuse of library credit card ‘an eye opener’

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Kayla Bunge
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
— City Hall and the Lake Geneva Public library are reviewing credit card policies after a former library staff member was charged with using the library credit card to make more than $70,000 in personal purchases.

“Everyone has been burned and learned from this experience,” said Library Director Andrea Peterson.

Mercedes Mogensen, 44, Elkhorn, is accused of making more than $70,000 in personal purchases on a library credit card between July 2005 and May 2008. She also is accused of stealing about $18,500 from the library between April 2006 and March 2008.

The credit card was issued to Mogensen to make purchases for the library. Peterson declined to say the limit on the credit card, which has been paid off and canceled.

“She did more than one thing to fool everybody,” she said. “She didn’t just fool the people here, she fooled everyone.”

Peterson said the library handled its own finances until about five years ago, when its accounting practices were altered to include the city. Bills are first approved by the library board, then by the city finance committee and then by the city council, she said.

“There were two places (Mogensen) was deceitful,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the library, which is governed by a board of directors, has been working with the city to develop a set of checks and balances.

‘Taking heat’

The city has no formal credit card policy, City Clerk Diana Dykstra said.

“We never needed one,” she said. “Now you can bet we’re going to have one. We’re all taking the heat for this one.”

The city has five credit cards. They are issued to the city administrator, city clerk, building inspector, streets superintendent and city maintenance technician.

The police department, fire department and the Geneva Lake Museum also have credit cards, but like the library credit card, they are not issued by the city.

Dykstra said the cards are used mostly for travel expenses, online purchases or emergency purchases when a purchase order or a check cannot be used.

The limits on each credit card vary, said Mayor William Chesen, but most carry a limit of $2,000.

Dykstra said each city employee who has been issued a credit card is held personally liable for purchases made with the card.

“My name and my Social Security number are attached,” she said. “I’m very careful about who uses it and for what.”

Dykstra said credit card bills are reconciled “line by line” by the assistant to the city comptroller.

“Because we have that third party reconciling the statements, we have some really good checks and balances at City Hall,” she said. “Not like the library. At the library, the same person who was paying the bills was making the purchases.”

Chesen has called for an audit of the city credit cards for the last year to “look at the system to make sure things are working the way they are supposed to.”

He said he doesn’t anticipate any discrepancies.

Because of concerns about the future use of city credit cards, Alderman Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Alderman Tom Spellman proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee to review the city credit cards and make a recommendation for paying bills.

The city council on Monday unanimously approved the proposal.

Dykstra said whether or not the city implements a formal credit card policy, the incident at the library was “an eye opener” for city officials.

Last updated: 9:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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