Posted: Sep 4, 2013 10:46 PM by Ryan Naquin
Updated: Sep 4, 2013 10:46 PM
BATON ROUGE - A city-issued credit card is causing a rift in Metro Council.
Council members get $50,000 for their district's budget each year. It includes salaries for assistants, office supplies and any other items they might need for district operations.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker says the mayor's office issued her a card in 2010 to spend on supplies and items. She was the only council member to have a purchasing card.
"I got the card as a matter of convenience," Wicker said. "It's one of the things we have the ability to do, and I opted to use the purchasing card to make those purchases."
Those purchases are why Councilman Chandler Loupe wants the card out of Wicker's hands.
He was unable to speak with WBRZ News 2 on camera. But in an email, Loupe said an audit identified problems because payment vouchers were signed by Wicker for her own purchases. His email continued by saying his own research showed "purchases revealed many problems" and "recommended the card holder's privileges be revoked.
Receipts the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit uncovered show Wicker made a $165 purchase at a camera store, spent $120 on DJ turn-tables and hundreds of more on things like snacks, drinks, ink and clothes...in three years more than $12,000.
She spent $2200 in 2010, $2700 in 2011, $6500 last year and $1200 so far this year.
The money was spent appropriately and like any other member would, Wicker said.
"I chose not to dump all my money into staff. I chose to use a portion of my money to make sure I was able to do community outreach events," Wicker said.
She believes the battle over her purchasing card stems from a personal attack from Councilman Loupe.
"Everything that I've done is above board and I've simply am here to serve the people of my district and I'm going to continue to do that and if it makes him upset that's a personal issue that he has to deal with not me," she said.
Wicker returned the card. She said she did so, not because she did anything wrong, but because she thought the card had become a distraction.