Calumet City mayor promises to pay back disputed credit card charges after aldermen flag spending

Thousands of dollars in charges made on Calumet City’s municipal credit card that aldermen say could not be fully explained by Mayor Thaddeus Jones led aldermen Tuesday to recommend policy changes, including taking away Jones’ access to the card.

A city spokesman said Wednesday Jones will repay the city for some of the expenses.

Aldermen in April asked Jones to provide more information about a series of charges that showed up on an itemized bill listing totaling more than $13,000, including hotel stays in New Orleans, Uber rides and meals the aldermen did not remember being for city business.

After giving Jones multiple weeks to explain why the city should pay these charges, the city’s Finance Committee agreed Tuesday to propose changes.

“We certainly want to ensure fiscal responsibility,” said 5th Ward Ald. Dejaun Gardner, who is also the Finance Committee chair. “I think everybody on this council would appreciate that going forward.”

A spokesman for the city released a statement Wednesday confirming Jones would repay some of the funds flagged by aldermen.

“The mayor has acknowledged and made clear the oversight in a few of the purchases in question and has reimbursed the city for those specific items,” the statement reads. “In addition, given the level of scrutiny which some municipalities are currently enduring, the mayor will also identify and pay any traditional reimbursable expenses used for city business such as gas and other small items.”

It is unclear how much Jones will pay back to the city. The city did not respond to requests for clarification.

6th Ward Ald. James Patton said gas is not an expense the city pays for even when conducting city business.

City policy requires charges to the municipal credit card of more than $2,500 to receive approval from Gardner, city treasurer Gerald Tarka confirmed. Charges over $5,000 require the City Council’s approval.

The charges aldermen flagged were for less than $2,500. Six of the city’s seven aldermen present Tuesday agreed policy has to change and that begins with taking away the second credit card Jones has access to.

“The second credit card was requested by the mayor for the chief of staff,” Tarka said. “It was canceled and then a credit card was requested for the mayor.”

Tarka did not say who requested the card for Jones.

Tuesday’s meeting ended without any policy changes being made. Instead, aldermen discussed with the treasurer and city attorney what changes should be recommended to City Council for a vote.

They agreed to review the credit card policies from four other municipalities and make Calumet City’s language similar to the other towns. Language that ensures only the treasurer has access to a city credit card and a formal request that Jones pay back money he spent on costs not incurred for city work is also expected to be introduced.

“This is not about this one situation or this one moment in time,” said Patton, who is not on the Finance Committee but joined to provide input and ask questions. “This is a policy going forward for people sitting here 10 years for now, 20 years for now.”