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.
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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.