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Questionable trips produced uneven recycling results

Posted July 2, 2008
Updated July 7, 2008

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— Wake County's recycling efforts have improved in recent years, but it's unclear whether dozens of taxpayer-funded trips taken by a county employee fired last month for questionable travel were the reason for the gains.

Craig P. Wittig was fired June 3 as the county Solid Waste Management 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.

"A lot of things that are new and innovative, you have to travel to find examples in the world to bring back to Wake County," Wittig told WRAL last week.

Some of his trips were for conferences, but others were approved without a work-related purpose. Overall, recycling is up in Wake County since he started in his job, but the impact of his work is uneven:

  • Wittig said the highlight of his two years on the job was finding a new company that pays the county for discarded electronics, which he said saves more than $200,000 a year. County officials said finding the vendor was a team effort.
  • "Feed the Bin" recycling programs are local schools have grown by more than 40 percent since 2005, but more than 12 schools have been built in that time.
  • Wittig also worked on a pilot litter enforcement program in which off-duty Wake County deputies were paid overtime to patrol area roads plagued by littering. Six citations were issued by deputies in the program from January to March.
  • Recycling in the county increased by 9 percent in the last two years, from 44,163 tons to 48, 323 tons, outpacing the county's 5 percent population growth.

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 last month, according to county records.

Wittig's expenses for outdoor gear, books, the whale-watching tour and Disney World park passes have been labeled inappropriate.

County Manager David Cooke has asked all department heads to review employees' travel expenses, and he plans to recommend hiring an independent auditor to look at all county credit card charges.

Some county commissioners have called for other employees to be fired in the case, but Cooke said he is still reviewing the case to determine whether other disciplinary action is warranted.

31 Comments

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  • foetine Jul 3, 2008

    wait till we see what the lottery folks have bought as "business expenses." Rumor has it that they buy out of state scratch and win tickets and claim they bought the "winners" while the taxpayers footed the bill for the "losers" that go in the "research collection."

  • nofear Jul 3, 2008

    what a waste. Also why do homeowners have to pay for the green recyle binds they have at home, when the government gets all the recycling money.

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 3, 2008

    Did he order $60 cheeseburgers, or hire his wife?

  • ncguy Jul 3, 2008

    Hey, he is only following his mentors the Easley's.

  • gary23 Jul 3, 2008

    He is better than Mike & Mary, Jim Clach, Mr. Wright, and some others. His Trips were approved and signed off on. He should get to keep his Job. His Boss and His Boss should have been fired for letting it go past (1) Trip. Who signed off on Mike, Mary, Jim Black, Mr. Wright on the rest of the Democratic Convicts?

    Hills69

  • poohperson2000 Jul 3, 2008

    Doesn't someone have to approve these expense reports? Why is that guys head not on the chopping block too???

  • 1Rx4FN Jul 3, 2008

    I hope this guy is made to pay back these inappropriate expenses. How about increasing the types of items that can be recycled. Only limited plastics and certain types of paperboard.

    Love the casino trip note - only recycling going on there was Wake county's tax money into the Vegas economy. I think that is called economic stimulus.

  • Cahulawassee Jul 3, 2008

    Well, you have to admit one thing. He can take 46 trips over 2 years for the same amount of money it costs to send the Gov and Lady Easley to Italy for a week or two. I'm sure a cheeseburger and onion rings isn't any less expensive at Disney World than it is in Rome.

  • RetGr6 Jul 3, 2008

    To do what he said, I'd think you'd go to a county or government office to discuss it. Not, Disney World, whale watching or to a casino. I'm just saying . . . . . .

  • bnorris6 Jul 3, 2008

    Any this guy accompish and from what I am reading really isn't that impressive, is part of his job and still doesn't warrant him taking trips with his family at the taxpayer's expense. He should be ordered to payback these inappropriate expenses regardless whether or not they were approved. I agree with one of the readers who commented that this research could have easily been done over the internet or by phone. There really wasn't a neet to travel to Walt Disney World 4 times in the few years he has been on the job..Just plain waste and in my opinion another form of embezzlement..If this is not a crime it should be...

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