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Top tax official to reel in spending
Response comes after charge-card habits come under fire
Ledbetter 1 es
Matthew Ledbetter accepts congratulations on his re-election from a well-wisher last week. Ledbetter has drawn criticism for what many consider to be excessive credit card spending in his department. - photo by File photo

Matt Ledbetter AUDIO FILE 7-18-08

Forsyth County Tax Commissioner Matt Ledbetter responds to concerns raised about spending in his office.

Newly re-elected Forsyth County Tax Commissioner Matthew Ledbetter has a plan to curb his own department's spending.

Ledbetter has already collected county credit cards from all his employees, as well as his own, and will be turning them in to the county's finance department.

From now on, he said, they will "pay for their meals, bring in their receipts and be reimbursed, just for out-of-town trips only."

Ledbetter's charge to stop department charging comes on the heels of recent criticism of spending practices that have been common since he took office in 2005.

"I don't want the taxpayers to be misled and to have any gray area where there's doubt in somebody's mind about what was spent," Ledbetter said.

"We want to take the gray area out of the tax commissioner's office and make it more of a transparent government office. We don't want that doubt to be there."

County records show charges to county credit cards range from food, gas and lodging during conventions, to gifts, flowers and many local meals.

While gas, food and lodging are permitted under the county's credit card purchasing policies and procedures, computer and telecommunications equipment, postage, printing and flowers are prohibited. Between 2005 and 2007, the office spent more than $9,800 on these items and services.

Ledbetter's action will help hold the department more accountable, but with a future review of internal controls planned for all county departments, that was likely to happen anyway.

Bill Thomas, the county's chief financial officer, said Sawyer & Co. soon will begin the process of looking at each department, "how they handle money, and how the money flows through the departments to get a flow chart and see if there are any inherent weaknesses that we can take action to fix, before any problems can result."

Though a county audit is done every year, and credit card purchases are supposed to be checked monthly by the finance department, the internal controls review will help the county evaluate its finances to "make it better," Thomas said.

He said he hopes to gain valuable information from the latest audit.

"I expect to get a number of points to see what we can do better so we can get our arms around the internal controls of the county to make sure they're working right."