Beginning as soon as he can arrange it, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton wants to get a fix on what he feels has historically been the largely untended spending of county government. The means? A new independent audit agency composed of five representatives -- one from each branch of local government and two members from outside government altogether. “I was thinking of doing this anyhow, but all this stuff” -- the widespread publicity given apparent abuses in county credit card expenditures-- “has given me the opportunity to bring the idea to the fore earlier than would have been possible otherwise,” said Wharton Tuesday. The mayor has meanwhile dispatched letters to members of local government informing them of the pending change. The new committee which Wharton intends to create would include one member appointed by the mayor’s office, another by the chairman of the Shelby County commission, and another by the presiding judge of the county court system. Those three individuals would then determine the identity of the other two members. “This is something clearly that we need,” Wharton said. “It seems obvious that the internal audit process has missed some suspect items over the years.” While reserving judgment over the final import of potential abuses now being uncovered, Wharton has given his blessing to a recent special audit process focusing on the credit-card expenditures of Tom Jones, the longtime senior aide to former mayors Bill Morris and Jim Rout. Reportedly the spending procedures of several present and former officials of governmental and associated offices are being looked into, as well. The mayor, who has said he would be willing to rehire Jones if no wrongdoing is ultimately proved against him, drastically curtailed county credit-card privileges as one of his first acts in office.

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