SANTA FE, N.M. — From a necktie to heartburn medication, from personal cellphone bills to new tires, Gov. Susana Martinez’s chief of staff used his government-issued credit card to make thousands of dollars in personal purchases in violation of state policy and procedures.
Keith Gardner has reimbursed the state nearly $5,000 since August 2012 for more than 40 card purchases at Walmart, Best Buy, Target and more. And after a Journal inquiry, he has paid $241 in interest required under state policy and procedures when an employee uses a government credit card for personal purchases.
Using a state government credit card for any purpose other than state business is prohibited. The policy and procedures say that if a card is misused, an agency shall follow disciplinary procedures up to termination and take away the card. Gardner, who is paid $136,350 a year, has kept the card and faced no discipline, but future charges must be approved in advance. Further, he said he hadn’t actually misused the card because there was no intent to defraud the state.
Gardner said in a recent interview that his use of the government credit card to make personal purchases didn’t comply with policy and procedures and was “poor practice and sloppy,” but that the reimbursements were evidence he had no intent to enrich himself at taxpayer expense. He typically made reimbursements for purchases between one and three months after the transactions.