Kennedy uses ‘wrong’ credit card

BLYTHEWOOD – It was all a mixup.

That was the explanation Richland County Councilwoman Gwendolyn Kennedy gave in response to recent media reports that she racked up more than $10,000 in charges over 13 months on her taxpayer-funded credit card.

Many of those charges were to hotels, retail stores and steakhouses, credit card statements show.

Kennedy

In an interview with The Voice, the councilwoman representing District 7, which includes Blythewood, said she accidentally comingled personal and county cards.

Kennedy said she’s taken steps to keep the cards separate.

“I really had almost forgot about it until it [news stories] started in the paper,” she said. “I have too many years in education and elsewhere for foolishness like that. It was all done accidentally.”

The charges, many of them duplicates and others seemingly personal in nature, framed a pair recent news stories based on credit card statements recently obtained and reported in The State newspaper.

The State shared the records with The Voice after independent attempts to obtain them through Richland County government were unsuccessful.

Kennedy said she never intended to spend taxpayer money on personal items.

She also said she doesn’t recall receiving any messages from The State as asserted in the newspaper’s report, though she later acknowledged the calls could’ve been placed to a different phone than the one dialed by The Voice.

“I mixed the cards up and I told them [county staff] that. I told them that the very next day. I added it up and gave them exactly what they told me I messed up,” Kennedy said. “My card and their card look so much alike. It was a mistake and I cleared it up. It bothered me and I fixed it.”

Kennedy’s charges range from several of less than $10 at various gas stations to hundreds of dollars in hotel rooms and restaurants while attending various conferences, mostly in tourist regions.

Since July 2017, Kennedy has attended two South Carolina Association of Counties conferences in Hilton Head Island and a County Council retreat in Myrtle Beach.

The largest expenditures, though, came in July 2017, when records state she spent $3,475.22 in the same month she took a trip to Columbus, Ohio.

Items of interest in that billing cycle include:

  • Hyatt Regency, Columbus, Ohio (6 charges) | $1,611.24
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Columbia | $825.43
  • PF Chang’s, Columbus, Ohio | $212.19
  • Longhorn Steakhouse, Dublin, Ohio | $143.73
  • Cracker Barrel, Grove City, Ohio | $108.06

High restaurant and retail bills appeared on future credit card statements as well, documents show.

In August 2017, she spent $129.90 at an Outback Steakhouse in Bluffton, $119 at JCPenny in Columbia, and $169.83 at Longhorn, also in Columbia.

The following month’s charges include a $178.88 bill at an Outback in Columbia, and the November 2017 statement includes a $215.80 charge at Bi-Lo and $72.17 at Tiffany’s Bakery, records state.

Despite the prior charges, Kennedy insists it a big mistake and pledged to not to repeat it.

“I got me a card holder to make sure,” this doesn’t happen again, she said. “I had just thrown all my cards together and wasn’t even thinking about it. People who really know me know that’s not something I would do on purpose.”