Local News

Commissioners call for more firings over questionable trips

Posted June 30, 2008 4:50 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2008 9:15 p.m. EDT

— Some Wake County commissioners called Monday for more disciplinary action 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. County records show he sometimes traveled with his family and often with other county employees.

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. His supervisors approved all of the trips in advance, he said.

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

Some commissioners said anyone who went on one of the trips with Wittig also should be fired.

County Manager David Cooke said more disciplinary actions are possible, but nothing was imminent Monday as he continued to review the case.

Cooke said he plans to recommend an independent audit of all charges on county credit cards. The Board of Commissioners would address the matter at its meeting next week.

Last week, he ordered all Wake County departments to review travel expenses for possible questionable spending.

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.

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.

County officials also have met with prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges are warranted in the case.