The Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District (KPPCSD) board meeting turned into a shouting match Thursday as Directors Cathie Kosel and Mari Metcalf took turns questioning whether Police Chief and General Manager Greg Harman may have misused his departmental credit card over three years.
The confrontation came up as the board considered a resolution establishing Measure G, an annual supplemental tax for police protection. The two directly questioned Harman as he sat at the staff table.
Holding up a sheaf of papers she claimed listed credit card charges by Harman, Kosel started out declaring, “I believe there are a number of expenditures you could term unnecessary and improper.”
Citing a record of trips on March 9 and March 28, referring to expenses for him and his wife, Yolla, Kosel asked Harman, “Was your wife there on official business?”
“I reimbursed the city for that expense,” Harman replied, then, further prodded by Kosel, acknowledged she had not been on official business.
Metcalf followed, noting $160 per day of travel meal expenses, and asking Harman, “Does that seem reasonable? I work for a company and have a limit of $80 per day.”
Presiding President Charles Toombs acknowledged, “It’s not proper to put personal expenses on city credit card,” but said the two directors were “asking questions that are misleading and inappropriate."
“You’re sandbagging,” he said to Kosel and Metcalf. “You’re throwing out information not available to the rest of us.”
Metcalf grilled Harman on "nearly $500 in overlimit fees, late fees, and finance charges" in one year, calling it a "big mess up." Harman and Toombs said those fees and charges involved a personnel issue and that the board would have to go into closed session to discuss it.
As the accusations continued, Director Linda Lipscomb shouted, “I want to end this. You're accusing him of misusing his office.” She cited a district rule banning oral charges against identifiable district employees outside of closed session.
After interrupting an ensuing shouting match and calling a brief break, Toombs declared the credit card issue off the table; but Kosel resumed, claiming “$16,000 has been spent on this credit card.”
“We will have an audit, and we will see the same information” being cited, Toombs replied. “Until then, this part of the discussion is out of order.”
Not until Toombs threatened to adjourn the meeting and then threatened to order the two directors to leave did the board return to the agenda item. It approved Measure G, on a 3-2 vote with Kosel and Metcalf opposing.The board also split a later vote the same way, defeating a motion by Kosel to change the evaluation procedures for the chief. She sought to include anonymous interviews with employees and exit interviews with former employees in the process.
Metcalf distributed a eight-page listing of expenses on Harman's credit card that she said pointed to questionable use. Metcalf's list — which included more than $16,000 in local meal and trip costs from 2008 through last April — began with the acknowledgement, “I have not been able to confirm that any of these are in fact charges for personal items.”
Among the charges were airplane ticket purchases for both Harman and his wife Yolla on two trips, although she was not traveling in an official capacity; and more than $1,300 spent at local restaurants, including four meals exceeding $100.
Corrections and clarifications: The original version of this article incorrectly quoted Metcalf as saying her company's travel meal limit is $60 a day. She said $80. The story also said the list of credit-card expenses that she provided showed three meals over $100. It showed four. The article also incorrectly identified the issue which Harman said involved personnel and would have to be discussed in closed session. The story implied that Harman was referring to charges on the card for his wife's travel and meals. In fact, he was referring to questions from Metcalf about finance charges and fees on the card. These three errors have been corrected in the article. Metcalf contacted Patch after the story was published to take issue with the story's description of the action taken by her and Kosel. The original version of the article said that Kosel and Metcalf "took turns charging that ... Harman may have misused his departmental credit card." Metcalf emailed Patch, "I did not charge that Chief Harman may have misused his dept'l credit card. I asked questions about certain charges." The story's characterization has been revised. Metcalf also took issue with the original story's statement that Metcalf provided to Patch her eight-page list of credit-card expenses. She noted she and Kosel distributed a copy to anyone who wanted one. Metcalf gave the list to Patch before the meeting and made copies available to others at the meeting. The story's phrasing has been revised. Metcalf also objected to the article's statement that her eight-page list showed expenses "exceeding $16,000." She noted that expenses for local meals and trip costs alone exceeded $16,000. This section of the article has been revised.