City of Memphis provided some with credit cards, censures reports on spending

The City of Memphis is censoring many details of purchases by those involved in a suspended purchasing program that gave credit card to a small number of employees and elected officials to buy anything they wanted, even if it had nothing to do with government business.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

The city finance director says 15 to 25 people were taking part in the American Express credit card program when it was discontinued this summer. He says that they were supposed to pay back the personal expenses themselves, that they did so, and that the city didn’t lose money.

Two national experts said it’s unusual for a government to allow employees to use credit cards for both official and personal payments. The head of a state open government watchdog group raised concerns about secrecy and risk to city finances.

In response to information requests from The Commercial Appeal, the city attorney’s office has so far released just two sets of American Express card records. Records from City Council member Edmund Ford Jr.’s card showed travel expenses, with descriptions of all purchases visible.

By contrast, six months of Halbert’s American Express credit card reports show little but white space.

“The individual card holders were entitled under the open records law to redact any personal transactions,” deputy city attorney Regina Morrison Newman wrote in an email. “Once they did so, our Public Records office supplied you what remained on each document/statement.”