County Updates P-Card Policies; Alvarado Moves to Shirakawa’s District

George Shirakawa, presiding over his final meeting as president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, sat mum during a discussion of new county charge card policies, scribbling notes as his colleague, Dave Cortese, asked if the Board could revoke a supervisor’s county-issued charge card, or P-Card.

It didn’t. The reason: Surely George knows better by now.

“I’d be amazed if he ever used it incorrectly again,” Supervisor Ken Yeager said after the meeting. Yeager will inherit the title of chairman of the Board at the first meeting in January. “And certainly, if he did, we would rescind it in a second.”

Less than two months after Metro first reported that Shirakawa used his P-Card to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on $100 steaks, hotel suites, SUV rentals, golf vacations and gambling trips, a new tab has come to light as the District Attorney’s Office and Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) continue their separate investigations of Shirakawa. The cost for auditing the District 2 supervisor and his staff, as well as handling requests for information, has surpassed $200,000, according to County Executive Jeff Smith.

And there’s still no clear end in sight.

No one expects Shirakawa, who filed for personal bankruptcy last year, to resign from a position that pays him an annual salary of $143,000. Despite orders to reimburse the county for more than half of the $36,837 in P-Card purchases he has made in four years as supervisor, Shirakawa is expected to wait it out and see if anything sticks and results in criminal charges.

However, for the first time, one of Shirakawa’s fellow supervisors is stating publicly that a decision will be made about Shirakawa, one way or another.

“I hope that the DA and FPPC issue their findings quickly,” Yeager said. “If not, it will be important for the Board to take action on its own.”

One of the first actions the Board might take is denying Shirakawa’s request to have charitable donations made with the supervisor’s P-Card approved retroactively.

Shirakawa’s staff used its own P-Card, separate from the supervisor’s, to make $6,250 in charitable donations, which a county audit last week deemed inappropriate. Included in the donations were swim lessons, glow-in-the-dark necklaces for Halloween and a $2,500 sponsorship for the San Jose Salsa Festival last year. The Board must first approve such donations, which didn’t occur. Yeager said he would not vote in favor of the county picking up the tab.

County Assessor Larry Stone continues to be Shirakawa’s fiercest critic amongst the eight elected officials in the county. At Tuesday’s meeting, Stone spoke in favor of changes that will force all P-Card expenditures by elected officials to receive a special audit from county COO Gary Graves in addition to quarterly reports that go in front of the Board. The county also announced elected officials and employees will face felony or misdemeanor charges if they attempt to abuse county funds in the manner Shirakawa did.

But again, Stone cited “a total collapse of enforcement” when it comes to audits of Shirakawa’s meal and travel expenditures.

“The fact that this went on for so long was just an invitation for him to continue it,” Stone said after the meeting. He added: “Every department head I’ve talked to is shocked and stunned by the amount of money and length of time this occurred.”

From his own experience, Stone said, county auditors red-flagged one glass of wine he mistakenly listed on a expenditure report, as well as 12 cents overcharged to the county by one of his staff members. By comparison, Shirakawa provided only a few itemized receipts from his 170-plus meals, most of which were purchased just miles from his home or office.

While Smith, the top appointed official in the county, has offered contradictory statements on how clear P-Card policies were—and just last week he told San jose Inside “they are pretty clear”—Stone suffers no indecisiveness.

“Jeff is consistently trying to dilute the significance of these improper expenditures,” Stone said. “I don’t know why. He’s not denying them. If it was incidental, then we wouldn’t be talking about it like this. Somebody gave a wink of the eye and said, ‘Don’t enforce these.’”

As a result of Shirakawa’s illegitimate expenditures and false reports, a number of people are interested in replacing him if he leaves office, and one potential candidate is now making a move.

Sources confirmed with San jose Inside that Teresa Alvarado and her husband, Jess Moreles, are moving from their house in Blossom Hill, which is located in Supervisor Mike Wasserman’s District 1, to a smaller home in Japantown, located in Shirakawa’s District 2.

“Teresa would be an outstanding successor to George,” Stone said, “and there would be others as well who meet the profile and be a good addition to the Board.”

Alvarado’s name has been floated as a leading contender to replace Shirakawa, as she fits the bill for a politically connected woman of color. Currently a communications manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Alvarado, 48, is an East San Jose native who attended San Jose State before moving on to positions with the Hispanic Foundation and PG&E.

According to sources, Alvarado wanted to move in 2008 to District 2 to run against Shirakawa. But the timing was poor. In order to run for office, she needed to be a registered voter in District 2 at least 30 days before the filing deadline. Alvarado instead ran unsuccessfully against Wasserman for the District 1 seat in 2010.

But sources believe Alvarado would stand a much better chance of being appointed to Shirakawa’s seat if he resigns or is forced out of office due to criminal charges.

Alvarado’s mother, Blanca Alvarado, served three-plus terms on the Board seat currently held by Shirakawa. When Joe Simitian takes his seat on the board next year, it will be the first time the county has not had an elected female official on the dais in 37 years.

Poignantly, Supervisor Liz Kniss, in her final meeting before returning to the Palo Alto City Council next year, said on Tuesday: “If there is somebody coming forward in the future, I would hope you welcome that person openly.”

UPDATE: The Mercury News reports that Supervisor Dave Cortese turned in his county P-Card.

Josh Koehn is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to josh@metronews.com or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

12 Comments

  1. Stop spreading rumors about who will be appointed.  Alvarado is the worst candidate in the county she kisses the editorial board of that Murkynews.  How about waiting to see who has the x&#$ to stand up the corruption in San Jose and be done with this disgusting abuse of power. There are plenty of folks out in the district who actually have done something for the communityes and would be excellent candidates.

  2. We have been reading a lot about perks for elected officials.  Why are they necessary?  Free condos, and credit cards for unlimited spending are not really important for government service.

    This week, a Chinese Government sponsored foundation, HANBAN, which sponsors the Confucius Institutes, arranged a free trip to 20 for several education leaders.  County School Board Member Anna Song arranged for school board members from Santa Clara Unified, AND THEIR SPOUSES, to go to China, expenses paid.

    Here is the catch.  Only people who endorsed Anna Song were invited.

    HANBAN has a bad record in censoring discussion about Tibet and Taiwan.

    How is this ethical?

  3. I think in cases where more than 2 years remain in a supervisor’s term there should always be an election.  In Shirakawa’s case if he resigns soon, there will be almost 4 years left in his term.  How does it serve democracy to have the folks elected by the other districts be the ones to select a vacancy?

  4. If the Board leader’s unabashed spending behavior weren’t disgraceful enough, his silence, refusal to talk to the press, and his denial of responsibility are even more so.

    Maybe the press can talk to former staffers to get an inside peak of this gluttonous spendaholic.  His day seemed to be planned around the next meal.

  5. Teresa Alvarado is head and shoulders above the unethical Shirakawa.  In fact most gang bangers and druggies in the district couldn’t be more unscupulous then Gluttonous George and at least with them you know they’re criminals outright. 

    Good for Alvarado moving to the district now and reestablishing her roots (she is afterall from that district originally) so regardless if it will be a board appointment or waiting out the election cycle even a rushed one if Georgie boy is hopefully and eventually criminally prosecuted then she will be set and ready. 

    Let’s hope her brother Jaime is readying himself to run against the Gluttonous George pal and frequent lunch scammer Xavier Campos when the time comes.  Campos has driven MACSA into the ground (what ever happened to that million dollars owed the teachers in pension rip off scheme that you totally “missed” Xavier??)  It seems you’re always OUT TO LUNCH in some fashion doesn’t it?  Either totally incompetent and unaware of theft of millions of dollars right under your nose when you’re at board meetings and the sitting COO or you’re party to the corruption as in the steal-from-the-taxpayers-they’ll-never-know schemes that George cooks up. 

    I’d gladly vote for Alvarado over those two losers!  Get ém matching jail cells!

    SJI any interest in pursuing George’s IRS tax filings?  How can he loan his campaign nearly $80K and be bankrupt at the same time?  Follow the money!  Someone bought and paid for this guy and the public deserves to know who.  Great job Josh & SJI for letting the public know what really goes on in his corrupt world.

  6. HELLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    DO WE KNOW WHO JAY BOYARSKY,IS?
    OK!
    WHAT DOES HE AND GEORGE , HAVE IN COMMON.
    FOR THAT MATTER, WHAT DOES HE AND REED HAVE IN COMMON?
      OK METRO, LET’S GET TO THE BEEF!
    THE VILLAGE BLACK SMITH

  7. The silence is deafening! Jay Boyarsky
      What was awaken within me was why Judge Ball and the DA, only gave my son’s attepted murderer, 18 months. That near death assult and verdict, changed the lives of my family of 7 forever.
      “Any procecutor in my office may err and when we do, we learn from it and improve”, Rosen said.
      Those are wise words. Perhaps, we can move forward and offer the same for George and his P card.
      Call the dogs in, there are far worse situations that require our attention in this new year. Reed was able to move on and became Mayor of San Jose.

    The Village Black Smith

  8. GEORGE PCARD, SOUNDS LIKE A PIRATE’S NAME!
      AFTER RESEARCHING THE NEPOTISUM AT THE MHP AND THE PLAYERS AT MACSA THAT ARE CONNECTED TO THE SHAMELESS PLAYERS THAT CONTROLLED THE POLITICS OF OUR EASTSIDE,
      I CAME TO THE CONCLUSION, THAT YOU, GEORGE, ARE NOT EVEN IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS THESE NASTY FOLKS. YOU’RE A 2 BIT PLAYER! THEY ALL GOT THE BIG BUCKS, ALONG WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY! YOU GOT TO BE A BIG SHOT, ON OUR DIME. WAA WAA!
    I’M LOOKING AFTER YOU GEORGE, BECAUSE YOUR DAD WAS A VERY DEAR FRIEND OF MINE.WE HAD MUCH IN COMMON, COMMUNITY.
      WE WATCHED AS THE GREEDY FOLKS FORMED THEIR CLIQUES! TO FLEECE THE OBLIGING, POLITICAL MILL
      WHY DO YOU THINK JOE COTO, FERNANDO ZASUETA VICTOR GARZA, PETE CARRILLO,AND THE REST OF THE BIG SHOTS TOOK ME OUT OF THE GAME ON THE MHC BOARD. ALL BECAUSE I ASKED FOR AUDITS OF THE CASH FLOW AT THE MHC.  CHECK MATE!  !VENDIDOS!
      I’VE WATCHED YOUR PROGRESS OVER THE YEARS, BUT THIS PCARD BULL S**T, BLIND SIDED ME. I’VE GOT AN IDEA WHY EVERY ONE WANTS YOUR ASS, BUT YOU NEED TO COME CLEAN AND PAY THAT SHIT BACK.
    THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY NEFARIOUS CHARACTERS, IN OUR FAIR CITY, THAT COULD BEAT YOU AT STUPITITY. BUT THEY COVER THEIR BUTTS WITH HUNGRY LOWLIFE FOLLOWERS.
    HEY WHO TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS, I’M NOT D……..

    THE VILLAGE BLACK SMITH