When Gretna's top two officials submitted expenses from a Las Vegas conference last year, they essentially said “hakuna matata” — no worries, according to a report released Thursday by the state auditor.
The mayor, Sally McGuire, and the city administrator, Colleen Lawry, spent $260 in city funds for tickets to a performance of “The Lion King,” a detail that was not included in the information submitted to the City Council.
Indeed, none of the particulars of McGuire and Lawry's travel and hotel expenses at the International Council of Shopping Centers' Global Retail Real Estate Convention were clear, State Auditor Mike Foley concluded.
“Without any documentation to support this payment, the City Council did not know what was actually purchased,” Foley wrote in the report.
McGuire said the tickets were an appropriate expense because she did not want the city to become “indebted” to prospective retailers for the city's Nebraska Crossing outlet mall, which could have paid for the tickets.
McGuire said none of the report's findings suggested criminal activity. She acknowledged that reforms were needed.
“The people of Gretna can be assured that I will make certain that tighter procedures will be implemented for use of the city's credit cards, travel by employees and use of city vehicles,” she wrote in a statement.
“Once past the legitimate concerns, the state auditor turned what should be a professional and helpful function into an attack on the finances and employees of the City of Gretna.”
McGuire's statement said Foley's audit, which examined city spending from October 2010 to January 2012, had not determined that city money had been misappropriated, though Foley's report appears to dispute that.
Foley's report reviewed more than $58,000 in credit card charges. The report was particularly critical of Lawry's spending, and concluded that she used her city credit card for personal expenses.
Lawry charged $5,074.47 in personal purchases on a city credit card that she repaid up to 45 days later, a delay that created what Foley termed “an interest-free loan from the city.”
Foley reported that on 12 occasions, Lawry spent a total of more than $800 on “uniforms” for which she did not provide receipts. The purchases were from stores — Marshalls, TJ Maxx and J.C. Penney — that are not uniform shops, and she is not required to wear a uniform, he wrote.
“It appears, therefore, that the so-called uniform purchases were actually personal purchases of clothing,” Foley wrote.
The report also concluded that city purchases of a Nook e-book reader and for extra leg room on flights were improper.
At the Denver International Airport, Lawry spent about $10 on two containers of lotion and a package of almonds that she should not have, Foley wrote.
McGuire said she has directed the city attorney and city auditor to make improvements in the reporting, recording and approval of city expenses.
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