Each of the past two Decembers, Kentucky Association of Counties Executive Director Bob Arnold has embarked on four-figure shopping sprees for staff gifts. KACo picked up the tab.
"I have what's called 'Santa Bob,' " said Arnold, describing his tradition of spending a day buying presents for the staff Christmas party. "I provide all those gifts — or KACo provides all those gifts."
At the parties, employees draw numbers to select their gifts. They can choose to commandeer a package picked by someone else or grab a new one from the stash, Arnold says.
On Dec. 15, 2008, Arnold spent a whirlwind shopping day visiting 11 stores in Frankfort and Lexington and charging more than $3,000 worth of merchandise on his KACo credit card. He was accompanied by former Franklin County Magistrate Harold Robinson.
The shopping list for KACo's 45 employees included power tools, sporting goods, scented soaps, books, gourmet coffee and electronics.
Here's their rough itinerary, according to receipts:
10 a.m.: The men started the day at the Frankfort Wal-Mart, where Arnold spent $449 on a handful of items, including a $100 Sony MP3 player. Afterward, they went to the Frankfort Lowe's for $406 worth of power tools and a blender that was on sale for $96.
12:50 p.m.: After a $77 lunch break at Beef 'O' Brady's, they bought a $36 slow cooker at Kohl's and headed to Lexington.
3:16 p.m.: Arnold spent $447, including $100 for a tent, at Dick's Sporting Goods in Fayette Mall.
4:48 p.m.: Taking advantage of a buy three, get three free deal at Bath & Body Works, Arnold spent $91 on assorted "Japanese Cherry Blossom" scented products. Other stops in the mall included JC Penney ($101), Kentucky Korner ($67) and Brookstone ($565). A $339 stop in Sears yielded an $80 tool kit and $10 worth of lawn bags.
7:03 p.m.: Arnold bought books by Barack Obama, John Grisham, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, Paula Deen and Jeff Foxworthy at Joseph Beth Booksellers. Total bill: $129.
8:02 p.m.: The men returned to Frankfort for nearly $80 worth of coffee products and a $50 gift card from Starbucks.
9:02 p.m.: An $83 dinner at LongHorn Steakhouse capped off the day.
On Dec. 23, the night of the staff party, Arnold charged another $485 at the Frankfort Wal-Mart on several last-minute gifts, including a digital photo frame, a $99 home theater device and a $59 circular saw.
Arnold said he bought more because he forgot about someone on staff. "Yes. I was one short," he said.
The total bill for Christmas 2008 was $3,324, up from $1,934 in 2007.