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Fired Wake official: Trips were approved

Posted June 24, 2008
Updated June 25, 2008

— A Wake County administrator who was fired after an internal review showed questionable travel expenses said Tuesday that county officials approved all of his trips.

Craig P. Wittig, the recycling program manager for the county's Solid Waste Management Division, took at least 46 trips between his hiring in February 2006 and his termination on June 3.

"The travel was a direct effort to gain insight into those (recycling) programs," Wittig said.

The trips included whale-watching off the coast of Maine, four ventures to Disney World and a trip to Las Vegas. County records show he traveled two to three times a month, sometimes with his family and often with other county employees. One trip to Disney and the Maine trip also included a group of Wake County teachers who are on a recycling advisory board.

"A lot of those trips are inappropriate. The amount of trips was inappropriate. Some of the charges were inappropriate," County Manager David Cooke said.

Wittig said one of his trips to Disney World was to attend a nearby composting conference. Disney has green-certified resorts and Wake County was trying to forge a relationship with the Disney Co., he said, and the trip included a teacher workshop with environmental teachers interacting with Disney educators.

He said he was hired to build a state-of-the-art recycling program for the county, and his work will save the county about $280,000 next year because his travels helped him find a different electronics recycling vendor for the county.

"I believe I worked in the best interests of Wake County," he said.

Seven employees in the Solid Waste Management Division, including Wittig, charged $165,165 to credit cards issued by Wake County – they are paid for with public money – between April 2006 and this week, according to county records. Officials are trying to determine how much of that amount was for travel and how much of the travel was questionable.

"I budgeted for and submitted a spreadsheet that listed the trips that I was going to take," Wittig said. "The budget process accounted for what travel costs would be spent."

Cooke agreed that the spending had been approved and said the trips should have been questioned more upfront.

"Your first line of defense or internal control is your supervisor," he said.

County records show Wittig's boss, Solid Waste Management Director James S. Reynolds, was demoted last month to the position of solid waste facilities manager. He remains on the county payroll, earning $85,000 annually, which is about $10,000 less than his previous salary.

Cooke said the case remains under investigation, noting five other employees also went on some of the trips. He declined to say whether other disciplinary actions were expected.

All other Wake County departments have been instructed to review travel expenses for possible questionable spending, he said.

The county has issued charge cards to 535 of its more than 3,800 employees. In the past 11 months, more than $5.7 million was charged to those cards.

"I'm sure every commissioner wants to assure the public that this will not be tolerated," said Joe Bryan, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners will work to improve how employee expenses are monitored, Bryan said.

Cooke said the county cannot afford to waste money in tight economic times.

County commissioners last week approved a 2.5-cent increase to the tax rate to fund a $984.4 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Commissioners said the extra property tax revenue was needed to pay off bonds and expand law enforcement efforts, and they also limited the budget increase for area public schools.

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  • joyleng Jun 26, 2008

    I am so mad!!! I can't believe we put these types of people into power. I get in trouble for bereavement pay and now can't get a job because of it and this man gets off with a demotion. That is bull. Maybe he can get Mike Nifon to represent him.

  • 5Rs Jun 26, 2008

    This is all about waste management, also known as government spending. Cooke needs to get to the bottom of this. We are paying for this employee and his supervisor and his supervosor still has his job?? How high does the corruption go?

    We have a governor who wastes money, we have a mayor who says there is no better time to spend money (on waste) than now.

    Fire the voters. We get what we vote for.

  • Adelinthe Jun 26, 2008

    Admiral - Well put, and AMEN!!!

    The baby boomers, of which I am one by the way, have to be the worst parents in history - teaching their kids they can have everything right now and they don't need to take any responsibility for their actions. Shameful!!!

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • TheAdmiral Jun 26, 2008

    donnied1952 -

    It is called relativism. Here's how it works. A police officer has sex with someone in his patrol car while he is on duty. He claims that he would not have had to do such a thing if he was able to have more time off between shifts.

    It goes to the courts, and he is fired because of ethics violations amongst just a few. He then claims that it was not his fault because the person he was having sex with was flaunting it.

    So they fire him and let him go on the ethics charges - and 60 days later he is in the patrol car doing it again.

    This time he blames sexual addiction and it isn't his fault.

    Relativism Addictive Disorder is running wild - commonly called Responsibility Avoidance Disorder.

    I see it all the time in the school systems.

  • TheAdmiral Jun 26, 2008

    "The travel was a direct effort to gain insight into those (recycling) programs," Wittig said.

    The trips included whale-watching off the coast of Maine, four ventures to Disney World and a trip to Las Vegas. County records show he traveled two to three times a month, sometimes with his family and often with other county employees. One trip to Disney and the Maine trip also included a group of Wake County teachers who are on a recycling advisory board."

    Ok Class - how do we recycle whales? What does Mickey Mouse do to recycle?

    This is just part of the ridiculousness of those people in government who think that they can justify lying to the public.

    I say cut taxes and remove the $20 recycling fee immediately.

  • annetteclifton Jun 26, 2008

    Fire the Boss, he approved the trips.

  • donnied1952 Jun 26, 2008

    No matter what this guys says, or what his boss says, they both knew it was wrong and just never thought they would be called on the carpet for it. After all they have the governor as an example. They should have to repay every cent, 1/2 for each of them. Then the gov. should have to repay the money wasted on the trip to Italy and all three should be used as an example for what NOT to do. I just don't understand what our world is coming to. No one wants to take responsibility for anything unless it is something they can brag on. They need to be taught that the "buck" does stop here.

  • moonpie Jun 26, 2008

    I'd like to take my family to Disney World....wonder if they have any job openingsd over at Solid Waste Division?

  • ratherbnnc Jun 26, 2008

    This is an outrage !

    I'm a state employee too (NCSU 12 years) !

    His attitude towards these trips and his shopping sprees are a joke !

    He believes that the funds came from solid waste disposal fees makes it ok to account for the spending because no taxpayer funds were used.

    All these P cards should be closed out and a full audit of this entire agency be ordered at once to uncover any and all fraud.

    This guy should be forced to repay the funds for these trips and the missing GPS. Wonder if it is for sale on Ebay or his kids backpack ?

    The Gov. should have borrowed the Pope Mobile when he was in Italy, would have cost nothing !
    james27613

    Actually he is NOT A STATE EMPLOYEE.. He works for the COUNTY so they wouldnt have P Cards.

  • CrewMax Jun 26, 2008

    Elect me as governor and I will have all of the state owned vehicles painted hot pink. State employees won't be inclined
    to drive for their personal business. Of course, this won't
    apply to my personal limousines.

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