The Denver Police Department reprimanded an officer on account of an ethics violation after discovering that the officer purchased around $1,000 worth of items at Best Buy over the last five years by using the department credit card’s reward points.
The officer, Technician Matthew Graves, used the reward points from city purchases to buy himself items sold in the big box media store. By doing so, Graves violated an ethics rule for Denver city employees, which states that they may not use their jobs for private gain.
During a city investigation, Graves stated that he hadn’t been aware of any policy prohibiting the use of reward points for personal use. He also said that he used “great diligence in shopping for the best price” for city purchases.
Although merchants, like Best Buy, are typically charged between $0.05 and $0.20 every time someone uses a credit card for a purchase, store credit cards often turn those fees into reward points for customers. After a certain amount of time, those points can turn into big savings for buyers. Best Buy’s rewards can be redeemed through coupons and smart phone apps, as well, and the purchase of specific items can lead to extra points.
Because of the police department’s discovery, Graves had to appear before the Denver Board of Ethics, which issued the opinion that personal use of reward points on a city card violated the Denver city employees’ Code of Ethics.
Matt Murray, the Denver Police Department’s chief of staff, said that Graves was not asked to turn over items purchased with the reward points, but Graves has been reassigned to no longer be a part of the purchasing process for the department. Graves was one of eight Denver Police Department employees with a city credit card, but his was revoked within one hour.
In addition, City Controller Beth Machann has decided to tighten policies pertaining to the hundreds of employees who use city credit cards. During the ethics hearing, she stated that city employees participating in these sorts of activities could direct city business to certain retailers only.