Wayne County auditor says Sheriff's gas cards not monitored closely, can be easily abused

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A report by by Wayne County's auditor general says Sheriff Benny Napoleon's department has failed to prevent abuse of county-issued gas cards and vehicles.

As 7 Action News first reported, some of the 90 or so gas cards used by officials belong to those who spend much of their time behind a desk or at an office. But that hasn't stopped appointees like lawyer James Spivey from racking up nearly 4,000 miles in charges a month, billed to Wayne County.

The audit, which will be officially revealed Wednesday at the county commission, questions why 9 officials with "administrative duties" have been averaging "several hundred dollars per month" in fuel costs.

Most of the charges ranged between $200 and $500 a month, but one official averaged more than $800.  While the report doesn't name the employees, 7 Action News has learned that the highest user is Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who has 2 gas cards. Over a six month period, he used 970 gallons of fuel. 

The 33-page report says the Sheriff's department has failed to implement necessary safeguards. It says officials haven't filed monthly usage reports for vehicles, failed to monitor how gas cards are being utilized and didn't provide justification for giving some officials take-home vehicles.

All those shortcoming, the audit concludes, "substantially increase] the risk that fraud or abuse could occur and go undetected."

Some officials, like press director Paula Bridges, acknowledge that their biggest single expense is driving to and from their homes, which Bridges says is a justifiable expense. She returned her card and vehicle in March.

The Sheriff's department declined comment, saying they will wait until the audit is officially presented Wednesday to commissioners.

Contact Investigator Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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