Association president's expenses questioned; Columbia Council official seeks independent audit


Some Columbia Council members are questioning whether travel and other expenditures made by Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty were appropriate, and the vice chairwoman supports an independent audit.

The 10-member council discussed the matter with McCarty during a five-hour closed-door session Wednesday night that ended with no clear consensus.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, council vice chairwoman, said there were "sufficient questions" raised about the "appropriateness" of some of McCarty's expenses.

"Whenever there is a question of financial anything, there should be an independent audit to remove any cloud whatsoever, and anything less than that isn't going to clear the cloud," she said.

McCarty, who replaced Padraic M. Kennedy as the CA's top official 18 months ago, declined to comment yesterday except to say it had been an "excellent meeting."

In an earlier interview, the former Atlanta councilwoman and recreation and parks director said questions about her expenditures had been raised by "one person who was new to the council who did not understand" the policy governing her travel.

When she was hired, McCarty said, the council gave her "complete discretion to make my own decisions about training and travel."

"All of my actions have been consistent with that policy," she said.

The council chairman, Joseph Merke, said he did not formally approve all of McCarty's expenses but that such approval was neither expected nor required.

He said he considered the matter closed.

"I can tell you that all financial matters have been addressed to the satisfaction of the board," Merke said. " 'To the satisfaction of the board,' you can take that as you want, but the board says they're satisfied."

The association is expected to release a statement to that effect.

The CA has yet to provide complete records of McCarty's expenses, but in the year that began in October 1998, she traveled to Florida, Georgia and California for management training seminars and a conference of the American Bar Association, of which she is a member. She also made a four-day trip to Atlanta, which, according to CA records, was one of the "relocation trips provided for in [her] employment offer."

In the period covered by records released by the CA, McCarty's out-of-town expenses totaled about $9,300.

Atkinson-Stewart said council members "owe it to our community to clear the air and have an independent audit" of the expenses in question, regardless of the amount.

"I feel it is my duty to question and to say that this is money given to us by a lien-payer, and we are not supposed to mismanage this dollar," she said.

McCarty's formal review is scheduled for April 7.

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