It turns out that DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has been billing DeKalb County for his personal cell phone. Over the past three years it adds up to almost $5000.
From the AJC
Watson put $4,882 worth of cellphone costs on his county debit card between May 2011 and March 2014 for an average of about $140 per month paid by taxpayers, according to Verizon bills obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request.
Watson, who represents about 350,000 residents in east DeKalb, said earlier this month that the expense was justified because he used his personal cellphone to talk with residents and government officials as part of his daily job as a commissioner.
“I do use my personal phone for county business. If the county thought it was wrong, why would they pay for it for three years?” Watson said. “I don’t see the big deal about the cellphone.”
This seems a bit ridiculous. I understand that sometimes you use your personal phone for work. I know I’ve done it; the only phone number I have is my cell. That being said, I don’t have a second work issued cellphone that is paid by the company (or in this case the government).
I can’t say I really buy the “but more people know my personal number” defense either. You’re an elected official. People put their trust in you to govern effectively and fairly. Not waste their money because you want to the County Government to pay for your monthly subscription to Verizon Navigation because you can’t find Google Maps.
Maybe there’s an argument that you can partially expense your personal cell phone bill to the county because you did county business on it. That’s fine, but all $140/month for three years? That’s stretching it.
The other money quote came from our own editor Stefan. And I don’t think I could have said it better.
Stefan Turkheimer, an attorney whose practice includes political law and employment law, said charging the government for personal cellphone bills could amount to ethical and criminal violations.
“If independent people were looking at it, they’d have a hard time justifying two cellphones,” Turkheimer said. “This is not an extension of his salary. Use of his P-card is not part of his benefits package. It’s something that allows him to do his job.”
It all seems like just another day using taxpayers’ money in DeKalb county.