Jul. 23--A Nassau County worker portrayed by the county comptroller as a potential abuser of a government gas card wants an apology, and his superiors back up the worker's claim he did nothing wrong.
But Comptroller Howard Weitzman has refused to comment after mentioning at a seminar on fraud earlier this month that his auditors had found an employee who used his county gas card to pump $17,000 worth of gasoline in one year.
Interviewed later that day, Weitzman said it was actually 17,000 gallons on 800 occasions, making it worth at least $51,000. But Weitzman refused to comment this week after the worker, a correction officer at the county jail in East Meadow, came forward and demanded an apology.
After the issue became public, Bonnie Garone, the Nassau County Commissioner of Investigations, said she went back and checked transactions on the worker's card, including all charges for the first three months of 2007, and found nothing wrong.
"We have seen no evidence of wrongdoing and no evidence of a lack of internal controls," Garone said in an interview this week. She explained that the worker's card was used 800 times to fuel 39 pool vehicles, and that a second card, specific to each vehicle, was used with it each time to record the transaction.
Garone commented after the worker called Newsday to complain that Weitzman had maligned him and all county workers by suggesting fraud without any proof.
The worker noted that Weitzman had not identified him by name, and he said his bosses had advised him not to use his name in asking for an apology. The worker identified himself to Newsday, and his name and position were confirmed by county officials.
In a July 9 seminar at Hofstra, "Fraud Knows No Bounds," Weitzman recited a litany of wrongdoing in the county.
He then mentioned that his auditors were using new techniques to spot potential fraud, such as to identify "outliers" -- workers at the outer extreme of measurable indicators, such as most sick days, most vacation days and most gasoline usage.
He cited the case of the worker with the most gasoline usage and said, "We suspect he gave the card out to other people."
The commissioner of investigations said the worker was one of five people, in an office with 66 employees, who had gas cards. That card and another card specific to each of the vehicles in the motor pool had to be inserted into the pump to activate it, she said.
She said the potential for abuse was "almost nil." "Remember. This is inside a jail. A personal car there would be very noticeable," she said.
The worker said he had been maligned in the eyes of his co-workers. "I want Mr. Weitzman to apologize to myself and the public for not looking into this before accusing someone," the worker said.
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