Some emergency: In St. Louis, that meant buying a sno-cone machine

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | 5:49 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The city of St. Louis circumvented normal purchasing procedures to buy "emergency" items that don't meet that definition, such as a sno-cone machine, fleece blankets and magnetic baseball schedules, a state audit says.

Emergency funding procedures also were used to buy a $9,300 satellite phone and $5,000 in photo equipment, state Auditor Susan Montee said Tuesday.

The city also purchased $25,000 luxury sedans for the newly elected president of the Board of Aldermen and the Recorder of Deeds.

The vehicles, purchased in April 2007, were equipped with heated leather steering wheels and seats.

The aldermanic president used his city-owned vehicle for personal use but didn't maintain mileage logs, so there's no way to monitor whether the privilege is being abused, Montee said.

She said the city might want to have a policy to determine what options are reasonable for city-owned cars.

Montee held a news conference Tuesday to release reports on the first four areas of St. Louis government her office audited.

The audit, requested by a citizens' group, is ongoing and won't be completed until next year.

Some citizens who are critical of Mayor Francis Slay complained at the news conference that the audit will not be completed soon enough to derail the mayor's hopes of being re-elected in April.

"I don't set a timetable by someone else's election calendar," Montee said. "We put them (audits) out when they're done."

Montee said the city was cooperative and open to suggestions, and already had begun implementing her auditors' recommendations.

Spokesman Ed Rhode said the city will wait for the complete audit before commenting.

The audit also found that the city doesn't track the costs and benefits of an employee wellness program. And it said the city gave one-time payments to two employees who performed extra duties when they temporarily filled vacancies. Yet there was inadequate documentation supporting those claims.



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