CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Audit Committee decided late Monday afternoon to defer the acceptance of a final report on the spending practices of Mayor John Tecklenburg.
Council struggled to approve accepting the report because some members said they had ongoing questions about the audit. Specifically, they wanted more information about an attorney who was hired as an advisor and was paid more than $80,000.
Last month, the audit found, among other things, issues with travel and meal expenses and the use of city issued credit cards. There were some expenses that the auditor said did not benefit the public, among them business cards for the mayor’s wife, which triggered the audit in the first place.
The auditor also found problems with city funds being used to pay for a birthday party for an individual and to take out a newspaper ad to congratulate another person on his birthday.
The auditor also said there were policy violations with the use of procurement or P-cards by employees, including no detailed receipts or what kind of business was discussed.
Michael R. Burchstead, a former general counsel to the State Ethics Commission, was hired as special counsel to the audit.
“I found no self-dealing by the mayor or any actions or conduct showing the Mayor or Mrs. Tecklenburg have personally financially benefited from their actions,” Burchstead said in his report. “No action of Mayor Tecklenburg or his family appears to be borne out of desire to use the Office of the Mayor for financial gain, but rather they appear to be motivated by their interest in representing the citizens of the City.”
That expert did suggest there might be some ethically questionable decisions.
Tecklenburg said on Monday they can all learn from this process and improve policies. But overall he feels council’s push for this audit, which covers the mayor’s office expenses from January 2016 through 2019, was political grandstanding ahead of election time and that they’ve been “making a mountain out of a mole hill.”
“All these questions about Sandy and myself, we’ve had no economic interest. Any of these questions, we’re simply serving for our citizens of city of Charleston,” he said. “I’ve been working on issues important to our city. And would like for our whole council to get back to thinking about flooding and draining and traffic and transportation and things that really matter to our city.”
City council voted to delay a vote to accept the final report until Tuesday’s council meeting where they hope to receive additional information about the contractor.
The independent attorney who spoke suggested the next step might be to file a complaint with the State Ethics Board if council members think that is appropriate.
Council members say they want to determine whether the legal office can produce additional information.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.