City: LaMont misused p-card

ALBANY, Ga. -- Complying with an open records request, the city of Albany released documents that show city officials believe former Human Resources Director Mary LaMont improperly used her city-issued credit card during a conference trip to California.

LaMont resigned her position July 13, accusing the city of both gender and race discrimination and pointedly accusing persons in key leadership positions of encouraging her to lie to federal investigators involved in a separate discrimination inquiry.

City officials released documents Monday they say support their contention that LaMont misused tax dollars while at the Society of Human Resources Convention in San Diego, Calif., June 25 through June 30.

In a memo to City Attorney Nathan Davis from Finance Director Kris Newton, a review of LaMont's travel expenses revealed what officials contend to be roughly $1,807 in disallowed charges.

When questioned about the charges by The Herald Monday, LaMont dismissed many of the claims as further evidence that the city is attempting to discredit her and retaliate against her for filing a federal discrimination complaint.

"It's all part of the constructive discharge," LaMont said. "It's more of their efforts to discredit me."

The letter, which has been posted to Albanyherald.com, contends that the city was improperly charged for two extra nights at the Omni in San Diego because LaMont and her husband arrived more than 24 hours before the conference was supposed to begin and then failed to attend the final day of the conference. Those two nights -- valued at $325.32 each -- should be repaid, Newton writes.

Additionally, the city contends that LaMont went over her $30-per-day allowance for meals by $182; purchased a "Go-Card" for entertainment valued at $164 and charged it to her city account; bought training materials worth $713 for her personal use and then rented a Ford Mustang convertible, logging 414 miles during her trip for more than $365 in charges.

LaMont refutes most of what was in the memo, saying that the conference started the morning of Saturday, June 26 so her arrival in San Diego on Friday, June 25 -- which she says was delayed hours by inclement weather -- was justified. Hotel records confirm that she checked into the Omni San Diego June 25 and checked out July 1.

The "Go-Card" purchase, LaMont contends, was part of a bundled discount itinerary through American Airlines that she says ended up being cheaper than just the plane tickets themselves and was signed off on by Lott prior to her leaving on the trip.

The training materials, she said, were bought by Human Resources employees for furtherance of their own training. LaMont, who is already certified, said she would have no need for certification books.

LaMont did say that she rented the Mustang and that she and her husband did travel to Hollywood on a sightseeing trip. She maintained, however, that she had originally rented a Chrysler Sebring convertible, but when the couple arrived at the rental counter the 2010 Mustang was all that was available for rent.

As for the per diem, LaMont said the city has an option to the per-day allowance in its personnel policy that allows employees to submit itemized receipts for reimbursements rather than the flat $30-per-day rate if they choose.

"The bottom line is that no one had a problem with anything prior to that April 14 meeting where I was asked to fabricate a story for the EEO investigation," LaMont said. "When I didn't comply, they went looking for something. I thought they would come up with something, but I didn't think it would be to this extent."