Former administrators at the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center were not only some of the best-paid professionals in the county, but apparently also were some of the best-dressed - both in the office and during leisure activites.
That fact, which became apparent to Utah County commissioners this week, prompted them to withhold approval of certain credit card expenditures made in March by Timp Mental Health administrators.Shortly after the $3.5 million scandal broke in April, the commission began checking all expenditures to make sure money is spent properly by administrators.
"We want the public to know we scrutinize expenditures voucher by voucher," Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck said. "It's been very enlightening."
The bills commissioners refused to approve totaled $8,904 in purchases made on an American Express credit card account. The account was shared by former executive director Glen R. Brown, youth program director Carl V. Smith and finance director Craig W. Stephens, who resigned in April. Clinical Director Richard Spencer, who was dismissed as a merit employee but offered an hourly contract at the center, also shared the account.
Some of the credit card purchases appeared legitimate, but commissioners decided the purchase of a personal computer for $3,500, sportswear totaling $271, dress shoes for $495, cookware for $51 and children's toys was too much.
"We're not about to approve it," Beck said. "I don't feel obligated to approve payment of something like that. They (Timp officials) will have to come back and appeal our decision and justify their reason for us to pay it."
Commissioner Brent Morris said the items appear to have been purchased for personal use not related to Timp Mental Health activities. "I have no idea why they would need cookware," he said.
Timp Mental Health officials refused to comment on the purchases or to allow the Deseret News access to the warrant registers outlining the questionable purchases, despite repeated requests Thursday from both the newspaper and commissioners.
"They must still think they're autonomous the way they thought they were under their previous operations," Morris said. "That upsets me."
A legislative audit released in April showed that at least eight center administrators paid themselves more than $3.5 million above their base salaries the past four years. Part of the abuse of tax dollars included alleged double billing from use of private credit cards.
Morris and Beck said the county may end up paying for the personal items under question because the purchases were made before the scandal broke. Commissioners, however, hope the items bought for personal use will be paid off by those making the purchases.
"They may make us pay it (the bill) . . . but they will have to do so under court order," Beck said.