San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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February 18th, 2009
For sale: 36″ cast iron coupling

STAFF REPORT

Following a city employee’s unauthorized purchase of more than a quarter-million dollars in waterline repair parts, the city council approved $143,000 on emergency to pay for parts that couldn’t be returned.

The employee intended to buy an array of items to use as backup in the case of waterline failures but did not follow purchasing guidelines and procedures and did not have authorization to make the purchases, said Tom Taggart, director of the city’s Public Services division which includes the water utility. The employee has since received a “significant demotion.”

“After this situation, we just felt like we couldn’t trust his judgement in the job he was in,” Taggart said.

The unauthorized purchases totaled $269,442 but $126,442 in inventory was returned to the distributors; the rest are custom and rare sizes that the sellers would not take back. Parts that are likely to be utilized in the near future will be kept and the rest sold as surplus at a loss, Taggart said.

Because the orders were placed verbally by telephone, no one else in the city government were aware of the purchases until invoices started arriving. He also said he had reorganized his division to route purchasing for all three city-owned utilities — water, wastewater and electric — through a supervisor with extensive experience in financial controls.

City policy requires purchases greater than $50,000 be put up for competitive bid; purchases between $3,000 and $50,000 have to be put through an informal bidding process and approved by the city manager.

— BRAD ROLLINS

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3 thoughts on “For sale: 36″ cast iron coupling

  1. In the private sector, this guy would have been fired and probably sued. In government, he gets demoted and keeps his retirement.

  2. In the private sector you wuldnt be reading about it in the newspaper and you wouldnt take the version of a cya bureaucrat as gospel. and you wouldnt have a utility that cant get its act together and hold this old water system together. Get a life

  3. I’d just add to this to the conversation: $143,000 in the context of the $120 million-plus city budget — certainly alot of money to us little guys — could likely have been concealed quite easily in the books; I don’t picture most our city council members riffling through invoices with a calculator. Credit has to be given to the city manager and Taggart for playing it straight and handling this above-board. Incidentally, the Mercury had this story before it was discussed in an open city council meeting so a cover-up would have been considerably more damaging and it was prudent of the city to handle it as they did.

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