Tax money being used for personal rides? Investigation underway - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Tax money being used for personal rides? Investigation underway

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Mecklenburg County auditors launched an investigation Tuesday into allegations that your taxpayer dollars are going to pay for other people's personal rides.

Officials with the county say they are taking the allegations seriously, though the investigation could take weeks.

County Commissioner Bill James met with county auditors and other high profile officials to expose what he calls potential fraud within the Department of Social Services (DSS).

James gave WBTV several documents that he obtained from an anonymous source that he believes works in DSS. He says the documents show trips, both to and from citizens' homes, paid for with taxpayer money.

James said what upset him the most, when he read an email from August, showing a client used a DSS-paid taxi for at trip to Wendy's.

"I don't know why we would be taking people to Wendy's or Burger King or McDonald's on the government dime," he said.

James admits there are exceptions like medical appointments, but county officials decided to go ahead with a full investigation.

"We can get arms around it (the investigation) pretty quickly. This is not a service we just started doing, it's a service we've done for quite some time," said Mecklenburg County Internal Audit Manager Christopher Waddell.

Commissioner George Dunlap supports the investigation, but is skeptical.

"There are going to be a lot of people tied up for a lot of hours to suggest to us, that maybe someone did something that was not appropriate," Dunlap said.

James' graph from his source shows that from the beginning of August 2012 until the end of September, $399,002.90 was paid for taxi rides. The graph indicates $340,847.42 was for Medicaid clients.

Despite that fact, James says something is wrong.

"When somebody calls in and says I don't want to cook tonight could you pay for me to take a taxi to Wendy's, it doesn't look good," he said.

Officials launched the investigation within minutes of former DSS Director Mary Wilson filing a formal appeal. WBTV asked officials if these allegations led to her termination on September 4th, but officials would not comment.  Wilson had no comment about the appeal.

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