Editorials

If water district charges jewelry, hunting supplies, maybe something’s up

A detail from the Pontoon Beach Public Water District’s credit card statement shows a $500 purchase at Kay Jewelers on April 26 on the card issued to Brian Buske, the district’s former director.
A detail from the Pontoon Beach Public Water District’s credit card statement shows a $500 purchase at Kay Jewelers on April 26 on the card issued to Brian Buske, the district’s former director. Photo illustration

So if you are in charge of daily operations of the Pontoon Beach Public Water District, why would your credit card contain these expenses: $1,131.95 to Colman’s Country Camper, $162.66 to Bass Pro Shops, $90.46 to Gander Mountain, $509.99 to Cabela’s and $500 to Kay Jewelers?

Some of those might be legitimate expenses, let’s say chest waders for dealing with a water line break or an equipment trailer. Some of them may not be.

Something in the credit card charges made by Brian Buske between December 2014 and June 2016 led the water board to fire him after nine years. It also led the water district to call the FBI to investigate their former district manager.

Compare these not insignificant amounts that caught someone’s attention to the credit orgy of East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver W. Hamilton. Hamilton racked up $230,000 in credit card charges before he was caught.

The point is, if you are entrusted by your fellow taxpayers to be a water district trustee or mosquito abatement board member or city alderman or U.S. representative, you have an obligation to pay attention to the details. That means you make time to look at the itemized credit card bills, or the budget line items, or the vendor payments. You ask questions. You maintain a healthy skepticism. You treat the money like it comes out of your pocket.

Because it does. Yours, and ours.

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