Ch-a-a-rge It!

You thought there was a problem with Broward credit cards? Get this.

Facilities Management Parking Manager Ed Davis racked up a $440 hotel bill. According to a February 11, 2002, interoffice memo written by Assistant Director of Purchasing Walter Pryor, Davis disputed this charge, claiming that he had paid the hotel bill in cash and was "surprised" that the hotel had processed the county card. Davis had no receipt to support his claim, so he wrote a personal check for $440 to the county on December 28, 2001. It bounced January 14, 2002. Davis blamed his bank. The county corresponded with his banker to get a postal check to cover the charge. Davis, of course, surrendered his card.

Painter Michael Hernan bought concert tickets worth $16 before his card was taken. Hernan wrote a personal check and letter of apology to the county.

Finally, Parks and Recreation Manager Gwen Stanley paid off her $8 late fees at Blockbuster, Libraries Manager Annie Williams made unauthorized phone calls, and Environmental Services secretary Adele Rosamilia rented movies. All lost their cards.

Mark Poutenis
Mark Poutenis

Bean says that if supervisors don't immediately report inappropriate charges to his office, there's little more he can do than take away their cards. But some people who lost their cards have gotten them back. Of the seven port employees who abused or broke the rules governing their cards, four have had theirs reinstated, including De La Cruz, Joyce, and Mokos. In all, eight cards were reinstated last month. "We didn't think we should ban the cards from them completely," Bean explains. "I will be monitoring their card activity." Bean pauses, as if he knows that that reasoning might not calm taxpayers if they knew thousands of their dollars were used to decorate a bureaucrat's office.

"All of the merchandise was returned to the stores," he offers. The accounts-payable manager says those who have had their cards reissued went through a "how-to" training session emphasizing the prohibition of splitting charges. "What we're doing is giving them a second chance," Bean says. "If we find any abuse, they won't get the card anymore in the future."

He concludes: "I think we still have a very good system in place. These people are not the norm."

Norm Thabit's office looks like Henry Bean's, windowless and cubicle-gray. The County Commission auditor for 22 years is a cheerful, soft-spoken man. He agreed to an interview with New Times to discuss Commissioner Eggelletion's credit-card expenditures. This was new territory for the auditor, who says he didn't know commissioners had county plastic until he read newspaper reports about Eggelletion's bizarre spending habits.

"I assumed Henry knew about it," Thabit says, shrugging. "I've never seen this kind of public spending for private use."

Documentation from Bean and Thabit shows how busy one little credit card can be:

On April 26, 2001, Eggelletion made three purchases totaling about $175 at the Doral Resort and Golf Pro Shop. It's unknown what he bought. That day and the next, he charged $356.34 and $108.93 for "telephone calls," according to county documentation. Also on the 26th, he charged $140.44 for the use of the resort's golf course.

On May 19, 2001, the commissioner racked up a $462.16 bill for golfing at the Trump International Golf Club, the Donald's newest luxury spot, in Palm Beach. Eggelletion also charged $53.96 at Ichiban, a Japanese restaurant in Boca Raton, $46.58 at Borders Books and Music, (for which Bean says Eggelletion could not produce a receipt), $30.33 at Wal-Mart, and $27.38 at Blockbuster, a favorite movie rental chain for the commissioner, who handed the county plastic to a video clerk again two months later.

Most of the commissioner's charges are for travel and hotels, including a July 19, 2001, Marriott bill for $1229.89. The most expensive single charge Eggelletion made in almost two and a half years was $1355 on January 18, 2002, to Brazilian TAM airlines (the county business trip for which his absence was counted as payable sick leave from Broward County Schools). He stayed in the Amazon River port city of Manaus at a luxury hotel that features private pools in some of the rooms.

In June 2001, Eggelletion used taxpayer dollars to travel to Acapulco to attend the Mexican Film Festival. When he returned, he defended the trip by saying that the film festival had agreed to move to South Florida. Not Broward County, though, but Miami.

In addition to Eggelletion's trips to Brazil and Mexico, county records provided by Bean indicate that the commissioner charged expenses on his county credit card during a trip to Puerto Rico, claiming that the February 2002 jaunt was an effort to bring business from the island to Broward.

The agenda for the conference, contained in Eggelletion's financial file provided by Bean, indicates that the event was sponsored in part by the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce. It consisted of a tour of a Bacardi rum factory and two cocktail parties, among other things.

The most symbolic purchase Eggelletion has made might be the $659 leather laptop attaché case he bought at Bally's. Call it the commissioner's blue dress.

Thabit tells New Times that he sat down with the commissioner to discuss the case. "I asked him to justify the case, and he said he needed it for work," Thabit said. "So I excused that." Thabit also approved a "Day Dater" (a battery-powered organizer) that Eggelletion bought with his county card.

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