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Questionable travel prompts call for online expense reports

Posted July 1, 2008
Updated July 7, 2008

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— Expense reports filed by Wake County employees should be available for inspection on the Internet, Commissioner Tony Gurley said Tuesday.

The proposal came in the wake of a scandal over questionable trips taken by members of the county's Solid Waste Management Division.

Craig P. Wittig was fired June 3 as the division's recycling program manager after county officials found out he had taken at least 46 trips since he was hired in February 2006. The trips included whale-watching off the coast of Maine, four ventures to Disney World and a trip to a Las Vegas hotel.

Wittig said the trips were efforts to research environmental programs in other parts of the country so that Wake County could develop a state-of-the-art recycling program.

Gurley said the prospect of anyone looking over an expense report online should keep other county employees and prevent other questionable travel and purchases.

"Transparency is what the public wants to have, and I think if that could be arranged, we'd cut out a lot of the stuff we're seeing that should not have been done," said Russell Capps, president of the Wake County Taxpayers Association.

Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said she supports putting the public records online, but she also wants better training for employees on spending.

"You're held up to a lot more scrutiny when you use public money than if you're in a private-sector job," Ward said.

Wittig's travels were approved by his former boss, Solid Waste Management Director James S. Reynolds. He was demoted last month to the position of solid waste facilities manager and took a $10,000 cut in his annual salary.

County Manager David Cooke said supervisors typically review employees' expenses before approving them. The county's finance department then looks for the proper signatures on expense reports before paying bills.

Ward said more oversight might be needed to ensure county money isn't wasted.

"I think there will definitely be changes. In the 20 years that I've been a commissioner, nothing like this has ever happened," she said.

Cooke said he would recommend an independent audit of all charges on county credit cards, and he asked all department heads to review their travel spending. He also is looking at possible changes to policies in providing employees with county credit cards.

Some commissioners have called for other employees who traveled with Wittig to be fired. Cooke has said he is reviewing possible disciplinary actions, and he has met with prosecutors to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Ken D. Jul 2, 2008

    dws is right. I'm all for accountability, but to create thousands of new "supervisors" isn't the answer. This would only have taken one, if he'd done his job.

  • oversleeper Jul 2, 2008

    has he paid back what he basically stole from the tax payers? getting a few thousand dollars back on things we paid for might help the budget!

  • clarkthain Jul 2, 2008

    This crowd is beyond belief! From Obama's low-interest home loan to Queen Mary latest insult to the intelligence of every North Carolinian.

    Maybe, Craig Wittig should have taken Queen Mary with him! Wittig was fired by Wake County and may face CRIMINAL charges for his trips at taxpayer expense - should we expect any less from Lady(?) Easley. Wittig took tax-paid vacations (including whale-watching cruise and 4 Disney World trips-including his entourage-and only managed to spend $161,233.

    Like Mrs. Easley he claims his travels were legitimate business trips since his job duties included directing an anti-littering campaign and planning a proposed environmental education center. It seems local Wake County crooks get a better return on their money than their friends at the Governor's Mansion!

    Where's the Beef?? - If the un-elected Queen Mary (or Hillary II) and His Execellency ate $60 dollar cheeseburgers in Europe, let's see the tab! I bet not!

  • buzzkill Jul 2, 2008


  • john60 Jul 2, 2008


    Yes, state travel reimbursements go in under the Intranet "Beacon" program, one of the few things that work in that system. It's not directly connected to the Internet so the public can't view it, but since it is an electronic system it is both faster and easier to retrieve data from than a pile of signed paper forms like what Easley used.

  • Scubagirl Jul 2, 2008

    I think expense reports on line will help decrease fradulent spending but I can't believe the travel dept. is not more involved. Just because something is signed off my mgr/supervisor at my company does not automatically mean it's approved. The finance dept. can override it and have.

  • oldcmag Jul 2, 2008

    Fish stink from the head ! There were 535 county issued credit cards and I for one would love to see a online report on how out tax money is spent !The rampent waste of money has to stop now !

  • TheAdmiral Jul 2, 2008

    I think the county should have an open check for people like this as a line item in their budget. Mike Easely does for his vacations at Italian Brothels.

  • NeverSurrender Jul 2, 2008

    "Any dummy should know that whales don't recycle. That one wouldn't have been a hard one to veto."


    Sure they do...they recycle plankton into whale poo!

    There's plenty of obvious benefits for Raleigh having a guy fly all the way to Maine to learn about that important biological concept...

    Sadly, the scapegoat gets fired (justifiably, IMO) but the management is pretty much unscathed. Targetted ship, sank truck...same old government dance.

  • Weetie Jul 2, 2008

    I agree with ncguy.

    Was the Governor's travel approved?