Rubber ducky, you're not so fun

| Friday, January 23, 2004

After a scorching review by state Auditor General Robert Casey, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is eliminating employee recognition programs that cost the state $700,000, Casey's office announced recently.

Included in the perks were tickets for amusement park rides, a Philadelphia 76ers game, a party in a hotel nightclub; plaques; embroidered shirts; disposable cameras; meals; admission to tourist attractions; and other items – including rubber ducks which, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, were emblazoned with the PennDOT logo.

PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler, who joined Casey in announcing the findings, said the savings could be used to fill more than 8,000 potholes. The abuses primarily took place before the current administration, led by Gov. Ed Rendell, took office.

The perks were not the only misuse of funds uncovered by Casey's department.

Another Casey audit released this week found that an employee of the department used a state credit card to buy thousands of dollars worth of goods and services for her own personal use. Those included premium cable TV, prescription drugs, computer equipment and over $50,000 a year in toner for one office copier.

Casey's office said in a statement that the employee had pleaded guilty to retail theft about the same time the worker was assigned several PennDOT credit cards. PennDOT has since fired that employee and referred the case to the attorney general for investigation.

An early version of the audit findings was released earlier so, according to Casey's office, “the new Rendell Administration could begin taking corrective action immediately.” That release was followed to an order to cease purchases for the employee recognition program … including rubber ducks and other "tchotchkes."

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