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MAHONING COUNTY Official: Receipt proves point



Published: Thu, November 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The commissioner is not sure if the credit-card company gave the county credit for the overcharge.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock produced a copy of a duplicate receipt from the Hampton Inn in Cincinnati showing that the hotel gave the county credit for overcharging her one day on her stay there.

Sherlock said that should put to rest any controversy surrounding questions about how she could be in Cincinnati and voting at a commissioners meeting here on Aug. 24, 2000.

But Sherlock said she and county employees cannot find any documents from American Express, the county's credit-card company, showing that it credited the county's account for the extra day. Sherlock said her office has contacted American Express to get copies because she cannot find any in her office to see if credit was given for the overcharge.

"It's possible it didn't get credited by American Express," Sherlock said.

According to county credit-card receipts on file with the auditor's office, Sherlock charged a $52.22 stay at a Super 8 Motel in Marietta on Aug. 22, 2000, as well as a $333.47 bill for a stay at the Hampton Inn in Cincinnati from Aug. 22, 2000, to Aug. 25, 2000. Also, Sherlock attended a commissioners meeting Aug. 24, 2000, to authorize her Marietta visit.

Sherlock said the bill from the Hampton Inn was a mistake and that she checked out late on Aug. 23.

Credit: The duplicate receipt that Sherlock provided to The Vindicator shows a $91.84 credit for the overcharge given Nov. 30, 2000. That overcharge was not listed on the original receipt and the original Hampton Inn bill with the $91.84 charge was paid by the county on Dec. 8, 2000.

Sherlock said the county fought for more than three months to get the charge removed by Hampton Inn and only paid the full amount, including the overcharge, after the hotel agreed to first credit the county's credit card. But Sherlock is unsure about whether American Express credited the county's account.

Phone calls: The updated receipt from the hotel lists the phone numbers of nine calls, costing $57.95, made from Sherlock's and her boyfriend Leo Jennings' room, including one to Sherlock's parents for $9.02; three to Jennings' cell phone number, costing $15.65; one to Struthers City Hall for $5.74; two to the commissioners' office for $16.97; one to an Ameritech voice mailbox for $5; and one to an unidentified caller for $5.57.

Sherlock said her personal calls were under the $25 per diem she is allowed by the county for daily expenses.

Philadelphia trip: This is the third time in the past two weeks that Sherlock's use of county credit cards to pay for travel expenses has been questioned. When asked Wednesday to provide more information about a six-day trip she took to Philadelphia earlier this year with Jennings, his two kids and her two children, Sherlock declined to comment.

"I've done everything I've possibly can to clear this up," Sherlock said. "I intend to move on and not talk about it anymore. I will be dealing with issues of substance."

Sherlock again took aim at what she called her political enemies trying to discredit her with questions about her use of county credit cards.

"My political foes will continue to go down this road," she said. "But it's frivolous of them to engage in character assassination. It's time to move on."

Activist's stance: Not so fast, said Tom Zamary of Poland, a political activist who has expressed concern about Sherlock's credit-card use.

"The continued effort at deception is indicative of the problem," he said. "She's the boss and she's saying this is a screwed-up system. She should look in the mirror to see who's responsible for the problem."

Also, the Democrats of the 17th District, a local political organization, are meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Poland Baseball Association hall on Sheridan Road to discuss the results of its investigation into the county's credit-card system.

skolnick@vindy.com




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