‘Embarrassed’ Shirakawa Admits Mistakes, Disputes Portions of Media Reports

County Supervisor George Shirakawa issued his first public comments regarding his reported misuse of taxpayer money in an email Wednesday to constituents. In the letter, Shirakawa uses a myth/fact juxtaposition to clear up “a complicated issue that can’t be explained with sensationalized headlines and scandalous printed ‘sound bites.’”

Shirakawa’s first three mythbusters appear to take issue with the Mercury News’ report of inconsistencies in the supervisor’s calendar and expenses on his county-issued credit card. Nowhere in his letter does Shirakawa directly address the findings in Metro’s report last month, which first broke the story of Shirakawa using his county-issued credit card to pay for vacations, golf trips and numerous meals—some of which included alcohol.

Also in his letter, Shirakawa provides a link to his page on the county website. On that page, links showing his reimbursements to the county are provided. It’s worth noting that the largest reimbursement check, which paid back the county for a $583.78 golf outing, was not written until a year after the trip and a couple weeks after Metro first started making Public Records Act requests to the county regarding Shirakawa’s county credit card.

Here is Shirakawa’s email in its entirety:

Dear Supporters of District 2,

For twenty years, I have honorably served those I represent and I’m deeply humbled by the trust and support the voters have given to me.  I’m proud of the work we’ve done, yet I’m embarrassed by oversights on the use of my county-issued credit card.  I take full responsibility for these errors and I’ve reimbursed the County for unauthorized charges.

The media is attempting to create the myth that I’m not accountable for my actions and I disregard my constituents.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This is a complicated issue that can’t be explained with sensationalized headlines and scandalous printed “sound bites.”  I hope to clarify issues raised by the newspapers by providing the following facts to dispel the myths:

Myth: Shirakawa “upgrades to first-class airfare and quadruples the county’s bill to $2,605.”

Fact: This statement is simply not true.  As you know, I’m a big man and on occasional cross-country flights I have upgraded to larger first-class seats. I paid for the upgrades with personal/private funds.  NO charges were ever made to the county-issued credit card.

Myth: Shirakawa billed taxpayers for two taxi rides to and from the White House—at 1:20 p.m. and again at 3:30 p.m.—hours after his county itinerary had him heading home.

Fact: This is not factual.  My itinerary was changed and the flight home from Washington, D.C. on December 4, 2009, departed at 9:15 PM, well after the two taxi rides.

Myth: Shirakawa attended the California State Association of Counties’ legislative conference in Sacramento on May 27 and 28. Yet, that same day, Shirakawa charged taxpayers $94.88 for a “working staff meeting” at Caper’s Loft restaurant at 1:06 p.m. in San Jose.

Fact: The CSAC conference was held in Sacramento from May 27 through May 29, 2009.  I attended the first day of meetings and checked out of the Sheraton Hotel Sacramento on the morning of May 28th to return to San Jose to attend the 9:00 AM County Children, Seniors, and Families Committee (CSFC) meeting as vice chair of the committee.  After the CSFC meeting, I had a briefing session with my staff over lunch before returning to Sacramento for the remainder of the CSAC conference, checking out on May 29th.

Myth: “He used his county credit card for five nights at the Renaissance Washington, D.C., Dupont Circle Hotel—two of them prior to the conference. On his third night, Shirakawa upgraded from his third-floor room, which cost taxpayers $256.48 a night, to the top floor.

Fact: This statement is simply untrue.  I did not upgrade a hotel room “to the top floor.”  The conference I attended was hosted at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel (999 Ninth Street NW, Washington, D.C.).  When I made original arrangements, the conference host hotel was booked full, so I made arrangements at the nearest available hotel, the sister Renaissance Washington, D.C. DuPont Circle Hotel (1143 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington D.C.), which was nearly two miles away from the conference.  On the third day, rooms became available at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel, the conference host hotel.  Since it was more productive and efficient to do the county’s business required by the trip at the conference host hotel, I changed hotels.

Myth: I have a “high-definition television” and a “classy” fridge in my county office.

Fact:  This description is inaccurate.  I have a small 19” television in my office to stay updated on state and city council meetings that impact the county.  The office has a dorm room sized 36” x 24” commercial-grade refrigerator for food my staff usually brings from home as they regularly work through lunch.

Myth: “Shirakawa regularly treats his core seven-member staff to lavish meals.”

Fact: “Regular lavish meals” is an inaccurate characterization of five lunch gatherings I had with my staff over a four-year period.  We had a Christmas lunch in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and two farewell meals for those who had left the office in 2012.  I strongly believe that rewarding and thanking staff for good work is essential to successful team-building.  If those charges are found to be unauthorized, I’ll reimburse the county.

Myth: “Shirakawa also rang up alcohol bills on his county-issued credit card.”

Fact: Purchasing alcohol with public funds is against the rules, period.  I’m diligent about making sure that no alcohol served at business meals is charged to the public.  It just came to my attention that in my four years in office, one expense totaling $18.75 was charged to the public.  I’m disappointed by the oversight and reimbursed the county for that cost.

Myth: “Shirakawa went on county-funded trips to casinos, luxury resorts and golf courses.”

Fact: Again, this is simply not true.  I inadvertently used the county-issued card to pay for two hotel nights totaling $263.74, a $20.46 breakfast, and $583.78 in green fees for four to play golf.  Once the inadvertent use on the county credit card was discovered on the hotel charges, I paid the hotels with personal funds and the two charges were credited back to the county credit card account (credits issued on 9/9/09 and 9/30/09).  I reimbursed the county for the errant breakfast and golf charges with personal checks.

Copies of my reimbursement checks to the county, travel documents, and credit statements are available for your review on my website at http://www.supervisorshirakawa.org.

My staff and I work hard to represent the most vulnerable in our community.  It’s demonstrated by the work we’ve done our first four years. We brought a health clinic to downtown San Jose and sidewalks to the unincorporated east side after more than a decade of resident pleas for these services went unanswered by previous county leaders.  We developed the state model for inmate realignment and ex-offender reentry programs, and augmented the county sheriff’s unit to combat child pornography.  These are just a few accomplishments from my first term.

I hope this information helps clarify some of the false and inaccurate claims made by the local print media.  I take full responsibility for the charges that required reimbursement and I’m disappointed in myself.  I should have held myself to a higher standard.  I’m committed to earning back the trust of those I’ve served for two decades by ensuring these mistakes never happen again.

Sincerely,
George Shirakawa

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

6 Comments

  1. GLUTTONOUS GEORGE:  “Fact: This statement is simply not true.  As you know, I’m a big man and on occasional cross-country flights I have upgraded to larger first-class seats. I paid for the upgrades with personal/private funds.  NO charges were ever made to the county-issued credit card.”

    REALITY: Yes you are a big man, partially because all you do all day is eat and drink on the taxpayers dime.  You spent nearly $700 on a glass front fridge for lunches that your staff brownbags but they also end up on your tab at all your “meetings”.  Too bad you never thought to overspend on an office treadmill.  You aren’t the only big man (and that is being generous because you are well over 2x the size of a healthy person) but you fly cross country and need a supersized seat in first class (which coincidentally is where you can get free alcohol for the entire 5 & 6+ hour flights) and “paid for upgrades with your personal funds”  Hey Gluttonous George, YOU DON’T HAVE PERSONAL FUNDS remember?  You are as financially bankrupt as you are morally bankrupt. 

    Mr Koehn:  The public owes you a hero’s award for exposing the blatant & intentional fraudulent behavior of George.  Could you do the public one more solid and investigate how it is he “loaned” his campaign $78,000 dollars when he was flat broke?  He managed to pay himself back from the campaign (even though he never managed to do the paper work that goes with that repayment) but if he’s claiming he had the money to loan himself it would have been in stocks, investments, bank accounts correct?  Or was this a more sedious and illegal way that his lobbyist backers funneled illegal campaign contributions to him and then “paid him back” nearly $80 thousand dollars which he immediately squandered and now is in bankruptcy?  Gluttonous George cannot be allowed to get away with this.  He claims he served honorably which is the biggest slap in the face to the residents of the Eastside yet.  THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HONORABLE ABOUT GEORGE SHIRAKAWA. 

    It is obvious by his spending patters at restaurants, bars, crashing dinner parties he’s not even invited to, his absolute need to literally feed on the public’s good will, his every vacation that is in a spot where gambling is a staple (Reno, Vegas, Tahoe, Thunder Valley, even the resorts in Mexico) that he is an addict.  George, have your PR people sell this as an “intervention”  You need help. Start working the steps George, really work them, don’t scapegoat the county oversite, RESIGN.  You have blacked your family name FOREVER in San Jose politics.

    Don’t think those of us that are your age don’t remember your many years as a bouncer George.  Just because we haven’t told those stories, don’t mean they don’t exist.  Do you really want to keep going and have people investigate your entire public life of shame (and crime)?  RESIGN before the real bugs come out of the woodwork.

    PS – you really should update your Facebook page too, all those high school glamour shots of your glory days in high school uniforms are just sad.  Its just sad that a what you have become at 52 is so very far gone from that athletic and full of potential 17 year old.  It is one thing to be nostalgic but that is your official page of a gov’t official and you live a lie all the way around.  You have no pictures of you “doing the good work” in the community.  Is that because you are so humiliated by how you look that you’re destined to self destruct?

  2. GLUTTONOUS GEORGE:  “The media is attempting to create the myth that I’m not accountable for my actions and I disregard my constituents.”

    No George, you are not accountable for your action.  Nearly 20 years of public service and countless campaigns and yet in the past few years you now have somehow forgotten how to file campaign finance records?  Right at the time your personal finances were in a shambles.  Your recordkeeping is half assed at best, you manage to save part of the receipt but never the entire receipt.  Interesting that its NEVER the detailed part that helps you hide the overcharges and alcohol doesn’t it Georgie? 

    You have disregarded us in the Eastside because every penny you steal for your own personal pleasure be it gambling, golfing, airline upgrades, fancy meals, alcohol, glass front refridgerators or fancy HD flat screen tv’s is a slap in the face to the hardworking middle class residents of your district.  YOU SHAME US EVERYDAY BY YOUR CONTINUTED PRESENCE IN THAT OFFICE.  Is that clear enough for you George?  You keep saying you have the public support but that isn’t true is it?  The Merc letters section is full of letters of support from people related to your staff members (I mean really Mr Garcia having your inlaws right letters defending George?  You oughta be ashamed too) or good friends.  All anyone has to do is check your social media all the “friends” and family are now your only defenders. You really don’t want to hear what the actual public thinks about you. 

    Here’s an idea George, if you’re so convinced you have public support and you’re so determined to make amends for the stolen funds how about YOU pay for the recall?  You put it on the ballot and lets gage once and for all if you are still the man of the people you claim to be?  How about that bet George, you willing to take it?  Pretend its Vegas and go all in.

  3. Nowhere in his letter does Shirakawa directly address the findings in Metro’s report last month, which first broke the story of Shirakawa using his county-issued credit card to pay for vacations, golf trips and expensive dinners—some of which included alcohol.

    That’s not entirely true.  Shirakawa wrote, “Fact: Purchasing alcohol with public funds is against the rules, period.  I’m diligent about making sure that no alcohol served at business meals is charged to the public.  It just came to my attention that in my four years in office, one expense totaling $18.75 was charged to the public.  I’m disappointed by the oversight and reimbursed the county for that cost.”

    That $18.75 is the cost of 3 beers and a pina colada at P.F. Chang’s that you got a copy of the receipt for.  Unless you’re going to be like Gloria Allred and come up with more receipts, he’s going to keep claiming that whatever you came up with was an unintentional mistake.

    You also have to love the, “I’m disappointed by the oversight and reimbursed the county for that cost.”  It’s the county’s fault.  They should have caught it.

    • Yes it is the county’s fault.  I bet he’ll vote to fire the employees charged with over site.

      How about the public “inadvertently” recall this joke now and then we can offer a weak mea culpa at the swearing in of his replacement?

      How he can even pretend that his staff brown bags it and needs the top of the line spiffy glass front refrigerator when he regularly has his staff at the restaurant “meetings” with him?  Are we to believe that unless his digestive track is in full operation that Gluttonous George cannot think?  Seems the only meetings he ever has are over meals at fancy restaurants.  Certainly brings to focus his “need” for the bodyguard/driver.  He’s a drunk who has bar lunches.  He really needs a driver and an EMT with a defibrillator following him around.  I’m surprised he hasn’t exploded yet with all the lies and burritos that fill his disgusting cavities.

  4. Shirakawa conveniently neglects to mention the over-the-top dinner at the Grill on the Alley, the $160 a day SUVs, the junket to San Diego with ambulance company Rural Metro, his habit of dining with his political consultants (Saggau-Derollo) on public tab, his violation of county policy in buying the tv from an unapproved vendor and the way he avoids getting alcohol receipts on his county credit card receipts: by hiding the detail copy and getting dining companions or restaurant owners to pick up the alcohol potion of the tab. If Shirakawa is as clean as he claims, why doesn’t he release the itemized receipts for his 180 meals and explain why he filed the Missing Receipt Memoranda instead of simply turning in the itemized slip along with the signed summary, which he had meticulously saved and turned in in each case? If this is not a case of premeditated fraud, I don’t know what is.

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