Inspector general finds $12,000 in 'highly questionable' purchases by cable channel chief

Former head of Baltimore's cable channel will repay $4,500 in purchases on city-issued credit card.

An investigation by Baltimore's inspector general revealed Monday that the former director of the city's cable channel made more than $12,000 in "inappropriate and highly questionable" purchases on her city-issued credit card.

Cassandra Vaughn-Fox, who was terminated in June 2013, will repay the city about $4,500 under a settlement negotiated in January with the Law Department.

The inspector general's office found Vaughn-Fox failed to follow policies and procedures when making purchases on her city credit card and when accounting for equipment.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, applauded the inspector general for the investigation. He noted that the office has received extra money and staffing in the city budget in an effort to root out waste, fraud and abuse.

Vaughn-Fox could not be reached for comment.

A new director for TV25 — which has been rebranded as CharmTV — was hired in July 2013.

During her tenure, Vaughn-Fox bought several cameras, camcorders and iPads that couldn't be accounted for, according to the report. She also bought multiple pairs of designer headphones, two seasons of HBO's "The Wire," $40 fountain pens, and books, including "I Want My Vagina Back" by Pamela Love Manning for $18.94, the report said.

Additionally, she purchased multiple e-books, songs and albums on iTunes and a dozen computer applications that cost between 69 cents and $13.99.

Vaughn-Fox said she purchased the digital books to share leadership and management practices with her colleagues, but admitted during an interview with the inspector general's office that the e-books were on her Kindle and staff did not have access to them, according to the report.

She also said that all the equipment in question had been accounted for before her last day on May 31, 2013. She was adamant during the interview in May 2014 that "she did not have any TV25 equipment or items in her possession," the report said.

Vaughn-Fox suggested that the equipment could have been misplaced or stolen between the time of her departure and when the inspector general office's conducted its review. The office was notified about the allegations in an anonymous tip in July 2012 and began a procurement review in September 2013.

"Given the transition of leadership and supervision at TV25 during this time, there could have been opportunity for items and equipment accounted for at the time of Vaughn-Fox's departure to then become lost, stolen, or otherwise unaccounted for after the fact," the report says.

The inspector general could not conclude that Vaughn-Fox took the items for her personal use, but concluded that "it is clear that Vaughn-Fox demonstrated less-than-sound purchasing judgment on many occasions and also purchased several inappropriate items."

According to the report, the inspector general believes that Vaughn-Fox did attempt to "obscure or conceal these purchases through vague activity log descriptions, missing receipts, and use of whiteout on receipts [that] indicate conscious knowledge of wrongdoing on her part." She denies using correction fluid to conceal receipts, the report said.

Online records showed Vaughn-Fox earned $56,000 in fiscal year 2012. A record for her earnings in fiscal year 2013 wasn't available.

The investigation triggered bigger questions for the inspector general, who began a "comprehensive evaluation" of the city's credit card program inventory tracking systems and assessment management capabilities. The results of that evaluation will be released later, according to the report.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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