by SEAN BATURA and BRAD ROLLINS
Outgoing San Marcos city council member Fred Terry, whose single term at the dais ended Wednesday, owes the city $2,802 for undocumented use of travel advances and charges made to a city credit card.
In a Dec. 1 letter written on behalf of the city’s Finance and Audit Committee, Finance Director Steve Parker told Terry he has six months to repay the questionable expenditures, which were first uncovered by Parker and the committee early this year.
After he couldn’t account for $3,456, Terry, a real estate agent, agreed to commit 10 percent of his commission on any sale to paying off City Hall; in the months since, Terry made two payments totaling $654. With the end of his term approaching, the finance and audit committee met again last month and ratcheted up pressure on Terry to retire the debt.
“All outstanding balances … not paid within 6 months will unfortunately be turned over to a collection agency,” Parker wrote Terry in the letter, obtained by the Mercury through a Public Information request.
In a brief interview this week, Terry acknowledged the city has billed him for the undocumented expenses but declined to offer an explanation for the charges. Terry, who ran unopposed in 2008 after serving as the Planning and Zoning Commission chair, did not seek a second council term this year.
At the beginning of the month, Terry also owed $738 in unpaid utility bills to the city. After the committee applied his December $500 council stipend to that debt, Terry’s utility balance stands at $239.
Council member earn $500 and are allotted up to $500 a month in reimbursable expenses related to holding office. In addition, each member is allowed up to $6,000 a year in travel expenses.
After the finance and audit committee met in February about Terry’s accounting problems, City Manager Jim Nuse shifted responsibility for auditing council expenditures from the city clerk’s office to the finance director. The clerk is a direct council appointee while the finance director reports to the city manager.
The city provides credit cards to council members for expenses related to city business within each members’ allowance. Pursuant to City Council Resolution 2001-48R, council members who use the cards are required to submit receipts for the amounts charged with an explanation of the purpose of the charge within 30 days of the expense. Authorized expenses may include travel and lodging costs related to official trips, business meeting-related meals; and transactions or gift-giving involving public officials, land developers, or others whose goodwill towards the city is deemed necessary.
The Mercury reviewed 155 pages of documents obtained under the Texas Public Information Act related to Terry’s travel and officials expenses since 2009. Even before his spending habits attracted the attention of Parker and the audit and finance committee, Terry frequently couldn’t account for cash advances he was given for various city travel to conferences and conventions.
For example, Terry spent $4,050 in city money for a National League of Cities conference in Washington in March 2009 and did not produce a single receipt. Six months later, in a letter to then-City Clerk Sherry Mashburn, Terry said he had, in fact, turned in the receipts to a clerk employee and suggested the clerk’s office had lost them.
“I assumed that the receipts were processed through your office and then to the finance department,” Terry wrote Mashburn in a letter dated Oct. 1, 2009. “Sorry I am not more certain than this explanation but it has been several months and, again, I assumed all was complete.”
In another case, Terry was given $200 in cash for a May 2010 trip to the International Conference of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas and did not produce any receipts for use of the money.
The list he did compile of expenses totaling $117 include one cab fare of $11.50 but otherwise consisted entirely of tips including gratuity to valets at the Gold Nugget, Caesar’s Palace and Venetian casinos. Terry ended up owing the city $82.51 for that trip.Email | Print