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Why is Norwalk considering OK'ing credit cards for department heads?

Cary Ashby • Apr 27, 2018 at 9:00 AM

The last time Norwalk city employees were authorized to use credit cards was more than 35 years ago.

On Tuesday, finance director Michelle Reeder presented council with an ordinance that would amend the personnel policy for the use of U.S. Bank credit cards for one-time vendors.

“Cards have become an integral part of doing business in this day and age. A number of city transactions can only be online transactions through credit cards,” Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara said Wednesday. “This is much more efficent than cutting a check.”

Reeder and O’Hara shared with council many safeguards for using credit cards properly. They include a $2,500 transaction limit; food purchases and entertainment would be prohibited; the possibilty of restricting exactly where the cards could be used; and employees still are required to go through the purchase-order process.

“We have fraud liability up to $100,000,” said Reeder, who expects the cards to be used for training expenses, conferences, hotel reservations and online purchases for one-time vendors. “I don’t see it (being) used every day.”

Reeder and O’Hara said probably fewer than than 10 cards would be issued and they would go only to department heads, who then would decide who could and couldn’t use them.

“That would pull back the number of people who would use them,” O’Hara said.

Norwalk public Works Director Josh Snyder told council he expects his department would use a city credit card the most — “weekly at least” — since online purchases are the most effective way to save money for buying parts. Those purchases would be for the water, wastewater and general service departments.

O’Hara said the safeguards are in place for two reasons — preventing improper or unauthorized use of the credit cards and to comply with regulations from the state auditor’s office that are imposed upon all cities regarding their usage.

Councilman Steve Schumm said he has heard from constituents who believe the city would be going down “a slippery slope” if the credit-card legislation is improved. He didn’t elaborate, except to say he wasn’t entirely supportive of the idea himself.

During her research for the proposed legislation, Reeder checked out seven area communities. The nearest ones are Willard, Fremont and Port Clinton. Reeder said none of the entities reported having any problems with their employees using credit cards.

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