On Your Side: NDOT purchasing policies under scrutiny

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Updated: 4/22/2014 7:02 pm
RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- The Nevada Department of Transportation is tightening up its purchasing policies. This comes after an employee is accused of using his state credit card to support his gambling habit.

Officials say Tal Pierre Smith may have stolen up to $250,000. Investigators believe Smith charged that much using his state credit card over a three-year time period. On Your Side asked NDOT questions about state credit cards and purchasing policies.

Investigators say Smith purchased items using his card and later, sold or pawned them in order to get the cash that helped fuel his gambling addiciton. NDOT would not talk specifically about this case, however, following the arrest, NDOT said it has reviewed its purchasing and credit card-use policies.

"This is something that we take very seriously," said Meg Ragonese.

The NDOT Public Information Officer said that review resulted in one significant change. NDOT took two of its stock rooms that were under state-wide management, and placed them within one of the state's three smaller districts. This makes the authorization and management of a purchase more local.

"People who know for that individual region, the needs and the type of equipment that's normally being purchased as well, it's another further check and balance," said Ragonese.

When it comes to purchasing, NDOT insists that they still have a long-standing policy that remains in place. It was that policy that may have raised a red flag in Smith's case. Investigators said he was arrested after a chain saw was delivered to him directly at the office, while he was on vacation. Ragonese said one of NDOT's procedures dictates the person purchasing an item is not allowed to receive it.

Investigators said they believe his 76 purchases averaged out to about $3,300 each. That's well below the threshold of $5,000, that, by law, would trigger the bidding process for a purchase. It is also well below another threshold.

"More than $10,000, it also necessitates a director's signature," said Ragonese.

Ragonese said they also limit who can purchase to only about 10-percent of NDOT employees. They also have two reviews of monthly credit card statements through purchasing and auditing, but that would not have helped in this case as smith is accused of altering receipts.

Smith's preliminary hearing is set for May 1.
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