The Pasadena City Council has approved a new policy governing procurement card spending by staffers, after a councilman pointed out that the city’s spending rules were routinely being broken.
The new rules set higher monthly limits for purchases made with specific cards, such as cards for car washes ($3,000 per month), HVAC ($10,000) and plumbing ($5,000).
Facility maintenance staff were also given spending limits equal to managers, who were historically allowed the highest charges (up to $750 per transaction and $2,500 per month).
Council members passed the policy at their Tuesday night meeting by a 5-4 vote. Council members Ornaldo Ybarra, Don Harrison, Sammy Casados and Cody Ray Wheeler opposed it.
Casados first raised the issue when he noticed frequent purchases being made at Councilman Cary Bass’ family business, Bass & Meineke; the business used to contract with the city for auto parts and batteries but no longer did.
Spending at Pasadena council member’s family business raises questions
It was easy to spot purchases to this company and others that exceeded the previous $750 spending limits — limits that Mayor Jeff Wagner has said needed to be modified to match the way the city was operating.
The Nov. 5 agenda listed charges of $1,528.80 and $1,407.00 to Mister Car Wash, charges of $1,149.90 and $3,328.75 to Bass & Meineke and a charge of $6,965.00 to a company listed as “Metro Fire Apparatus S.”
“For years now, the city has been in violation of this ordinance,” Casados said at an early-November meeting where the proposed changes were first voted upon. He argued that city officials should get in compliance and stay with the original rules.
Councilman Thomas Schoenbein agreed it was time to update the policy. Councilman Phil Cayten said no one intentionally tried to abuse the process and described the fixes as “minor corrections.”
“This is an opportunity for us to move forward and correct the things that were done wrong in the past and get things right for the future,” Councilman Bruce Leamon said.
Wheeler said the revisions at least acknowledged something was wrong. Nevertheless, the council members opposing the revisions Nov. 19 still found them problematic.
“There’s no checks and balances,” Harrison said. “They’re checking themselves.”