Who’s Watching The Hen House?

It has been reported today in The Wilmington News Journal, that Deputy Treasurer,   Erika Benner has resigned her position following the scandal over her “inappropriate personal use” of her state issued credit card.  First of all, is there any appropriate “personal use” of a state issued credit card? I don’t think so, since state policy prohibits such personal use of these cards.

Benner used the card to make around $2,300.00 in personal purchases, including buying tickets to a New England Patriots game amounting to one thousand dollars including a private car service.

So what can the citizens of Delaware expect to happen to Miss Benner?

Let’s start by looking at some of the quotes from the WNJ.

Ms. Benner said, “I take full responsibility and apologize for the decisions I made during a very difficult time in my life and am grateful for the support you and your team provided me”, this from a letter to her boss state Treasurer Chip Flowers. So are we supposed to feel sorry for Ms. Benner? Would we feel sorry for any other thief who stole our money? Which is exactly what she did, she stole the tax payer’s money.

Ms. Benner went on to say,  “I do not wish to serve as a distraction to the integral work of the Treasury and the accomplishments of your administration in fighting for the principles that inspired me to public service – excellence, honor and ideas that can improve the lives of people.”

So now I guess she is to be commended? For what? Stealing, being caught and running away?

Let me state here that Ms. Benner has paid back more than $2,000.00 of the money she stole, does that make it right? Does that settle it? Should the people of the state not expect an explanation of how such a thing could have happened, and have gone on for more than 16 moths?

Is there no body watching the statements of these credit cards? Is not the immediate supervisor checking the expenditures? In my job, I have a company credit card, and I have to turn in my receipts to my manager, who then checks them against a statement from the card company to make sure that he has all the receipts for all the purchases on the card. He then has to validate that all the purchases are legitimate company purchases.

So is this not happening in the treasury department? Are people allowed free rein with the people’s money with no checks or balances?

So you may be wondering where was the Treasurer while this was taking place? And what is his reaction to this latest announcement of Ms. Benner’s resignation?

Let us again look to quotes from state Treasurer Chip Flowers to the WNJ,   “While I certainly do not condone and strongly condemn the actions that resulted in Ms. Benner’s request, I am grateful that she has accepted full responsibility for her actions during this difficult period in her personal life, including full repayment of the amounts improperly charged to her state credit card (including interest).”

Well then! Calm down Mr. Flowers, there is no need to be so upset by this crime. No need to make Ms. Benner cry you brute!

But wait, Mr. Flowers isn’t done castigating Ms. Benner, he goes on to say, “We are appreciative of her work in this office, which includes increasing the market value of the state’s $2 billion investment portfolio by over $30 million during her tenure. Though the road will be difficult, I hope that she can one day redeem herself in the hearts of Delawareans. I wish her well,”

Will no one step in and pull this man off of this poor innocent woman? Are we going to let him simply keep abusing her this way?

Maybe we should throw her a going away party too?  Get her a nice gold watch, well maybe she already bought herself one, but we could get it engraved for her. Something touching like, ” thanks for those great Christmas presents last year Erika”.

If you are not upset yet, get a load of this, the state, that means you and me, has been paying this woman short-term medical leave since June for an undisclosed condition. The funny thing is this undisclosed condition set in right after the state Finance Department began questioning Ms. Benner about some of the “questionable” purchases on her state issued card. Like $86 at the Red Roof Inn in Dover. One wonders why she needed a room in Dover? And was it a day or night stay? Also on her card was gasoline and KFC and McDonald’s.

So here it is, we have a bureaucrat stealing money from the tax payers, we have her boss either complicit by ignoring the problem, or completely incompetent in not keeping track of these cards in a manner that would not allow such abuse.

The when caught we have a woman trying to make excuses for her theft by singing some sad song about a “difficult” time in her life. To compound the matter we have the state Treasurer making excuses for this woman and commending her for all of her hard work. Well let me tell you something, and I am sure many others would be in the same boat. I have worked for my company for over 32 years, and if I were caught stealing in this manner from the company, I would be gone in a minute and would be facing prosecution.

That brings me to my final point on this, will Ms. Benner be facing any charges for this crime? Can we expect any real investigation from outside the Treasury Department? Will Mr. Chip Flowers be made to answer for his mismanagement of his department?

I am calling on state Auditor Tom Wagner to launch an immediate investigation and audit of the  state’s credit card accounts, starting with obviously those within the Treasury, because if this woman was doing this, you can bet there are others buying lunch and gas and who knows what on the tax payer’s dime.

Let us not forget that the state Auditor once had even more powers to investigate such abuse and fraud, maybe it is time we reinstate that office with those powers.

5 Comments on "Who’s Watching The Hen House?"

  1. anon says:

    First off, Chip Flowers definitely wrote that statement. Even in a situation that exposes how weak a Treasurer he is, he still forces the News Journal to print his talking point that they’ve done a good job with the people’s money. (A talking point that will be blown to tiny bits in the election when the public finds out the outrageous risks Chip has been taking with the public’s money for such little gain.)

    Second, word is that Ms. Benner is headed right back to her old merit job in another section of state government. THAT is the story worth following up on at this point, and the story that the party and its allies should make sure to make a lot of noise about. If true, that is a key example of what’s wrong with government.

  2. anon says:

    In fairness, I should say I strongly believe that Flowers wrote that statement. Obviously, I wasn’t there, so it’s unfair to say he definitely did.

  3. waterpirate says:

    I think she fell on her sword a little to quickly. I feel there is much more to the story. I cannot believe that she also is rumored to have applied for re-instatement to the ” merrit system ” before the we know the details about the resignation. Again a little to quick IMHO.

  4. Frank Knotts says:

    I agree that clearly there is more to the story, hence my call for the state auditor Tom Wagner to begin an investigation immediately.

  5. Frank Knotts says:

    The WNJ has reported this, “In forfeiting her post, Benner also asked to reclaim her status as a state merit-system employee, which could make her eligible for placement in another state job in a different public agency, said Office of Management and Budget Director Ann Visalli.”
    We also want to remember that, “Flowers maintains he did not learn about Benner’s inappropriate use of the state credit card until this spring. She became Flowers’ deputy in January 2011, as he took office. Benner made an annual salary of $97,274 in the deputy position.”
    He is claiming that he didn’t know anything until this spring, though this had been going on for 16 months.
    Ms. Benner is also claiming some sort of addiction which she had sought treatment for, could it be a gambling addiction? I mean someone making $97,274 a year and still has to steal from the tax payers?
    It will be interesting to see how far up the administration this goes.
    And there is no way this woman should be given another state job of any kind. What she should be given is an orange jump suit.

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