ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Gov. Susana Martinez’s chief of staff has reimbursed the state over the past two years for nearly $5,000 of personal purchases that he made while using a state-issued credit card.
Keith Gardner’s use of the card for purchases of items ranging from auto tires to cellphone accessories violated state policy and procedures, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday.
Gardner told the newspaper that his use of the card for personal purchases was “poor practice and sloppy,” but the fact that he reimbursed the state shows he had no intent to defraud taxpayers.
He typically made reimbursements for purchases between one and three months after the transactions.
“My intentions were always to make sure this was made whole,” he said.
However, Gardner said that from now on that any planned use of the card by him is subject to prior approval by other senior officials in the Governor’s Office,
Gardner, a former member of the state House of Representatives and previous manager of a physical rehabilitation clinic in Roswell, said he came from the private sector, where some companies permit employees to use a company credit card for personal purchases, then make reimbursements.
Gardner’s use of the card was criticized Friday by Lawrence Rael, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor.
“The use of state resources by Keith Gardner for personal expenses is not a trivial matter,” Rael said in statement released by his campaign. “That the Governor’s chief of staff either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that he can’t use public resources for private expenses is beyond comprehension.”
According to the Journal, Gardner said he only learned that the state requires interest to be paid on personal purchases after the newspaper inquired about his credit card use.
He wrote a check for $241 to the Department of Finance and Administration to cover the fees on April 11.
“If I had known of that (required interest charge), we would have done it all along,” Gardner said.
The department produced records for Gardner’s credit card use two months after they requested by the Journal under the state Inspection of Public Records Act.
In January 2011, when the Republican governor’s administration took office, Gardner signed a cardholder agreement saying he had been trained in and understood state policy and procedures for use of the credit card, including the ban on personal purchases.
“I understand that my failure to follow the policies and procedures will result in disciplinary action against me including, but not limited to: suspension, termination of employment, and/or criminal prosecution,” the agreement states.