‘Accepted practice’ is far from truth

Collinsville City Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich claimed person use of city cards was an “accepted practice,” but city records tell a different story.
Collinsville City Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich claimed person use of city cards was an “accepted practice,” but city records tell a different story. znizami@bnd.com

A closer look at the Collinsville credit card use by city employees gives us a better handle on the problem, and even less reason to trust Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich.

Out of 19 department heads, only six besides Brombolich made purchases they needed to repay from January 2012 to July 2015. That tells us the policy of prohibiting personal use of city credit cards was fairly well understood.

To put a finer point on it, Brombolich’s assertion that making personal purchases on city accounts was “accepted practice” is just hogwash.

Interestingly, many of the purchases by the other six were not matters of violating the policy as much as matters of bad judgment. Former streets director Rod Cheatham grabbed the wrong card on five of his 10 purchases. He repaid a $182 battery for a Mercedes-Benz, and was asked to repay three business lunches on his city card. His 10 purchases for $514 were the worst of the group.

There was also the specious practice of using city cards to boost the city’s rebate at the end of the year, which is how public works director Dennis Kress explained the $60 he reimbursed to take his wife to water conferences. That practice should be discontinued because the potential confusion and softening of a “no personal use” policy is hardly worth the piddling rebate on $60 in purchases.

The other thing these credit card receipts tells is that it was good having a former cop watching the purse strings. Former City Manager Scott Williams, the city’s former police chief, caught these purchases and objected. He discovered former economic development director Erika Kennett bought five charging cables for $69 and made her repay $55 to cover all but one for her city-issued iPad and iPhone.

Brombolich only made two purchases during the period, but she had a long history of abuse. She tallied 20 personal charges of more than $3,300 during a decade and failed to repay many until she was caught much later.

So by the time she put a $283 hotel charge on her city card in July 2014, Williams was reading her the riot act. Then she was caught on an old FedEx charge in September 2014, and Williams was preparing to fire her.

Too bad that didn’t happen. She resigned and thus protected her public pension and now she’s a city council member with enough political clout that she ousted Williams the watchdog. She had help from Mayor John Miller after Williams took him on for “Dirtgate,” accepting $1,600 in free fill dirt from a city contractor.

The facts are clear: Brombolich cannot be trusted with city dollars and should resign. She was caught, she tried to hide her dishonesty, she was forced to make it right and then she went after Williams — far from the acts of the confused innocent she would have you believe.