The state-mandated credit card policy by City Council is anticipated coming in behind deadline as final details are worked out.

In August, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill which mandates that all local government municipalities in Ohio establish credit card policies. The goal of this policy is to combat credit card abuse at the local level, Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber said in a press release.

The policy is supposed to be in place by Feb. 1. However, City Councilman Peter Kotses, D-At Large, said that the policy will probably be established late. Kotses doesn’t think that the Ohio state government will penalize Athens in any way for being late on their policy.

“I really don’t know what will happen because it’s something that’s required by the state and I know there’s a lot of other municipalities that are working on it at the same time,” Kotses said. “Not all of them are going to get (the policies) done at the same time.”

Credit cards will be given out to city officials who already had them before the updated policy. This is mostly the prominent figures in Athens city government, like City Council members. Each card will have a limit of $5,000 and policies on how this money can be spent are clearly defined, Kotses said.

City officials are not authorized to use their credit cards on alcohol, personal expenses, phone or wireless services, uniforms or utility payments. However, exceptions can be made if approved by the auditor, Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said. 

Kotses said the policies for credit card purchases have not been updated in a long time and will help in an age where most things are now paid for by card.

“There’s so many subscription services and things like that that,” Kotses said. “They wanted to just make sure that they had some set guidelines on what the government considers a new form of payment.”

The biggest problem City Council has faced with establishing a credit card policy is finding a compliance officer. The compliance officer would be in charge of making sure that no unauthorized purchases are made on city issued credit cards.

Originally, the position was going to be held by the office of President Pro Tempore. Councilman Jeffrey Risner, D-2nd Ward, was a large proponent of the compliance officer being an office as opposed to a named elected official.

“It should not be a named office,” Risner said. “It should be someone who is neutral in that.”

President Pro Tempore can not hold this position due to their ability to vote in council, Kotses said. Another compliance officer is being considered and is one of the last details necessary to complete the policy.

“I believe somebody in Kathy Hecht’s office has volunteered her services to do that and I believe the legality hasn’t been specifically nailed down that,” Kotses said. “That’s one of the fine points they’re really trying to break through.”

Kotses is glad that the policy was mandated for Athens and other municipalities from the state of Ohio.

“I just know that they’ve been working on it for a long time,” Kostes said. “And I’m glad that they’re putting it in place because I think that you do have to identify that things are changing and there’s different things that are being spent on with these (cards) and so I’m glad that somebody at the state is figuring that out.”

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