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Report details card controversy in Hartford

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A much anticipated report on the use of credit cards by Hartford city employees was released late Friday and raises questions about at least one member of Mayor Pedro Segarra's inner circle.

Purchasing cards, or P-cards, are used by 168 Hartford elected officials and city staff. They function like credit cards.

Last month, city council president Shawn Wooden and the popular blog We the people Hartford asked the audit commission to investigate the matter to determine if the P-card program was being abused at the expense of taxpayers.

The auditor reviewed the more than $761,000 worth of P-card purchases from June to March and is recommending some changes.

Eyewitness News I-Team has been covering this story since hearing reports of an expensive  New Year's Eve dinner at Max's Downtown for eight people, which was hosted by the mayor and charged to a city P-card.

The food bill was supposed to be split with half on the P-card, the rest on the mayor's card.

According to documents, the auditor found that purchase lacked documentation of the mayor's efforts to reimburse the city.

"Max's charged the entire food bill, including tip, for $707 to the Chief of Staff's P-Card that night and apparently," the report stated, "the lack of a charge to the Mayor's credit card for a portion of the meals went undetected when the bill was settled."

However, that's something Segarra insisted he did when Eyewitness News asked the tough questions recently.

"In essence, the cabinet was giving up their night with their families to put itself at the city's disposition," he said. "Having said that, the dinner that you referred to, I paid half the cost of the dinner."

The next month, the report said once the finance department let the mayor know, his office contacted Max's and half was put on his personal card.

"I'm still very disturbed about the dinner at Max Downtown on New Year's Eve," Wooden said. "Don't believe that's an appropriate expense for the taxpayers of the city of Hartford to pay for. Quite frankly, it's offensive."

The report also questions why the mayor's chief of staff charged 26 business meals totaling more than $2,800 over the past nine months.

"Generally, the persons entertained and the related business purpose on the business meals were not indicated on the restaurant receipts," the report stated.

The city's finance department director said effective immediately, new policies are in place. When it comes to restaurant charges, there needs to be detailed receipts, notes on who attended and you must state the business purpose and back it up with documentation.

"We're going to continue to be aggressive about making sure that we don't waste taxpayer dollars in the city and the council is going to do that," Wooden said.

"I think if you look at my expenditures as a mayor who drives himself, who types his own letters, who pumps his own gas," Segarra previously told Eyewitness News. "I have been nothing but extremely responsible."

For it's part, the city officials said they will review the report and take appropriate action.

One recommendation by City Council members is that P-cards are prohibited by business entertainment and that city employees put it on their own cards and get reimbursed.

To read the full report, click the following link.

To view the recent P-card purchases, click the following link.

For more on this story, click the following link, wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com/.

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