A report released today by the Office of the Inspector General accuses the former director of TV 25, Cassandra Vaughn-Fox, of abusing her city-issued credit card while she was a city employee.
Kevin R. Harris, who oversees the city-owned station, said the Rawlings-Blake administration agreed with the findings, noting, “Integrity is essential in city government and we must hold all public officials accountable.”
The cost to the city of Vaughn-Fox’s malfeasance, the report stated, was $12,117.26.
The OIG began a review of her practices not long after receiving an anonymous tip in July 2012.
The complainant alleged that Vaughn-Fox used her purchasing authority at TV 25, a division of the Mayor’s Office of Cable and Communications, to buy items for personal use and misused city equipment for personal gain.
The OIG investigation covers expenditures made between 2010 and 2013, and has nothing to do with the newly rebranded CharmTV.
Vaughn-Fox’s last day of work at TV 25 was in May 2013.
“I Want My Vagina Back”
The OIG conducted an onsite review of assets and procurement practices at the TV 25 studio in September 2013 and noticed purchases made by Vaughn-Fox, “many of which were of a high dollar amount,” the report stated.
It found some purchases to be suspect. These include wireless adapters, a preamplifier, a laptop bag, bluetooth headset and a TV mount – none of which could be recovered at the station when the OIG did the inspection and during followup interviews with TV 25 staff.
Just a few of the other items considered “inappropriate” included a “Crayola Color Studio for iPad” and a paperback book titled, “I Want My Vagina Back.”
The book was purchased from Amazon and sent to Vaughn-Fox’s home address, according to the report. No TV 25 staff reported seeing the book at the station.
Credit cards are issued to city employees as a convenient alternative to time-consuming authorizations and to streamline the procurement of small-value items.
Stated city policy prohibits employees from using the cards for education, travel, personal expenses and cash withdrawals.
A few of the many items that Vaughn-Fox purchased with her TV 25 credit card included iTunes music that investigators believe were for her personal use, books that went on her personal Kindle book reader, and a subscription to Amazon Prime, which provides a user with access to movies, books and discounts.
The report identified two sources of the problem: Vaughn-Fox’s poor purchasing choices and “inadequate personal oversight and asset management by the city.”
It said OIG had “significant concerns regarding effective oversight of the City’s credit card program” in general as well as its “inventory tracking and asset management.”
OIG began an evaluation of the city’s credit card program, inventory tracking and asset management about a year ago, Inspector General Robert H. Pearre Jr. told The Brew today.
The results of those investigations will be released at a later date, he said.
After completing its investigation, the OIG referred the case to the Law Department, which negotiated a settlement with Vaughn for $4,524.15 in January.
It is not known if Vaughn-Fox has paid any portion of the settlement; a query about her payments have so far not been answered by the law and finance departments.
Asked why the settlement is so much lower than than the cost of her alleged malfeasance ($12,117.26), Pearre said in an email: “There were three categories of [credit card] abuse. Some expenditures weren’t quite as strong. Also, some were lost to the statute of limitations.”
Vaughn-Fox was hired by the city in 2005 and was promoted to director of TV 25 by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in September 2010.
A company she formed in 2009, Out Foxed Media LLC, has been forfeited, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. The 40-year-old is also a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Baltimore’s Municipal Employees Credit Union (MECU).