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Opposition to proposed updates on employee purchasing policies led to a discussion of checks and balances on credit card limits during Tuesday’s Scott County Board of Supervisors Committee of the Whole meeting.

Purchases currently are approved either by the department head or through the board’s approved annual budget, said David Farmer, director of budget and administrative services, the cardholder accounting program administrator.

Farmer said there are three levels of card purchasing limits. Standard level cards issued to most employees set $500 per purchase and $2,500 per 28-day billing cycle limits. Under intermediate level limits, employees are allowed to charge $3,000 per purchase up to $25,000 per billing cycle. Only a few employees hold enhanced level cards allowing for purchases of $15,000 per transaction up to $25,000 over 28 days.

A proposed policy change increases the limit from $10,000 to $15,000 on bids and contracts requiring board of supervisors’ approval. Also, department heads and one of two program administrators would review purchases prior to the auditor’s review.

There are 259 card holders, according to Auditor Roxanna Moritz.

Moritz said there was long-standing opposition to issuing purchasing cards to county employees, such a policy was first approved by supervisors in 2006. In a written statement, Moritz said her office questions allowing public money to be spent without direct approval of the elected board.

“This is an opportunity for misuse, intended or accidental, after the fact,” Moritz wrote. “I don’t think this many people should have the authority to spend that kind of money without oversight from the board. The risk is not worth the convenience. I’m not comfortable with that.”

Moritz also objected to the proposal to have the auditor’s office review all purchases.

Farmer said the changes were proposed because many supplies are ordered online now. Farmer and Speidel used the example of purchasing paper from vendors offering limited time sales on products.

“We’re watching the prices, trying to get the best deal and purchasing under deadlines. That’s why both of these policies are being addressed,” Farmer said.

“Who is ensuring we’re getting a competitive bid with that $10,000 to $15,000 purchase?” Supervisor Diane Holst asked. “It’s not going to be on an agenda for the public to see how we’re spending their money.”

“It’s a trust relationship,” Board Chair Tony Knobbe said. “We hire professionals to do their jobs and to look out for the interests of the taxpayers. We discuss after the fact.”

“After the fact is the key word here,” Holst said. “We’re revisiting after it’s already done. I want to see it first.”

Supervisors will continue the discussion during Thursday’s regular 5 p.m. meeting.

In other business, supervisors heard initial details of the first comprehensive salary and benefits study to be completed in 30 years. Human Resources Director and Assistant County Administrator Mary Thee recommended supervisors retain Public Sector Personnel Consultants to conduct a review of job classifications for the purposes of updating job descriptions, salary and benefit packages. The cost would be $74,000. Thee said the firm based in Phoenix, Arizona with representatives in Chicago and Minneapolis, specializes in government workforce studies.

Eight bids were submitted. Thee said the firm will set a date to present the full proposal to the board once supervisors approve the contract. That agenda item will be considered on Thursday.

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