San Jose City Council Considers Updating P-Card Policies

San Jose may update its procurement card policies to keep employees in check, after a recent audit found several examples of overspending.

In a proposal up for consideration at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Sam Liccardo say posting transaction data online would “increase transparency and encourage compliance with city policies.”

Last month, a city audit found some major violations of procurement card (p-card) rules. Receipts showed that the head of Economic Development, Joseph Hedges, dropped $2,300 on a dinner for 28 guests at Paolo’s in downtown to entertain a Sister Cities delegation from Ireland. Some $700 of that was spent on a dozen $55 bottles of wine.

The audit questioned the purchase of $225 VIP tickets to an awards dinner for non-city employees. Kim Aguirre, director of San Jose International Airport, bought the tickets for the “Women of Influence Awards” hosted by the Silicon Valley Business Journal this spring, which appears to violate city policy that requires p-card purchases to be the least expensive item that meets specifications.

Also in the audit: a purchase by Capt. Cleo Doss, spokesman for the San Jose Fire Department, who charged $600 to the city to rent a BMW for two-and-a-half weeks for personal use after his own car was totaled. City policy limits charge cards for official city business, not “for personal purchases under any circumstances.”

Liccardo and Reed suggest shedding more light on the process by posting transaction reports on the city website as soon as the card numbers have been redacted. And for council appointees’ purchases, the City Clerk should be the approving official.

“A critical improvement to the procurement card process would be to bring transparency to these transactions,” Reed and Liccardo write. “This would allow for public scrutiny of procurement card transactions and provide more information to city residents about how their funds are being spent.”

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for October 21, 2014:

  • Four years ago, San Jose council members voted to boycott Arizona in response to the state’s passage of draconian anti-immigration policies. Lawsuits by human rights groups have challenged the constitutionality of SB 1070, which, according to the ACLU, has led to a surge in racial profiling. City attorney Richard Doyle says that, because legal opposition to the law is gaining more traction, it's time to lift the boycott to support Latino groups in Arizona.
  • Councilman Ash Kalra is asking the city to support a state bill that aims to reduce prison crowding and boost treatment programs. Prop. 47 would also redirect money saved from reduced prison time to mental health and drug treatment programs, public schools and crime victims. The bill was co-sponsored by former San Jose police chief and soon-to-retire San Diego Police Chief William Landsowne and has garnered an eclectic group of supporters, including unions, human rights groups, mental health organizations and Jay-Z. Critics include a long list of law enforcement groups, including the California Police Chiefs Association.
  • City officials want to up the number of units eligible for a high-rise construction tax break from 2,500 to 2,550. Since 2007, the city has offered developers a 50-percent break on park fees to spur new construction in downtown. To date, the city has waived $11.8 million for the program, which sunsets in 2016.

INFO: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

6 Comments

  1. As stated in SJ’s website, “A sister city affiliation is an official, long-term relationship between two cities or communities in two nations. Sister City affiliations are recognized by Sister Cities International, the nonprofit organization that sanctions affiliations between U.S. and international cities.” The sister city relationship provides wonderful opportunities for junkets, such as Tom McEnery and friends to Dublin, and vice versa for the Dublin crowd. However, although “official”, the relationship remains a mostly private endeavor. Therefore any taxpayer funding for the junkets is immediately suspect. Further, p-card rules forbid payment for alcoholic beverages. Just ask George.

    On the other hand, a $55.00 bottle of wine at Paolo’s probably sells for around $25.00 retail and probably isn’t anything to write home about. And a dozen bottles for 28 folks is only about 1.8 6-oz. glasses apiece. All in all, $2,300 for 28 guests at Paolo’s ain’t a bad deal at all. Too bad Mr. Hedges didn’t seek some private funding for this hospitality from those who pushed for whatever sister city relationship this dinner was given.

  2. A sister city affiliation and you can’t even entertain them with a glass of wine, each, at dinner? How embarrassing for the host. Maybe he should have stood up and told everyone, “I’m using a P-card and the City won’t allow me to purchase a glass of wine for you with your meal.: How embarrassing. Do you think they would have treated CSJ the same way? I don’t think there was anything wrong with it and I am a taxpayer. One glass of wine-fine. More than that would be a no-no.

  3. “In a proposal up for consideration at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Sam Liccardo say posting transaction data online would “increase transparency and encourage compliance with city policies.”

    Are you kidding me! These two are the worst at “Transparency”, they should post “we are the two biggest clowns this city has every seen when it comes to lying”. Of course there a lot of close seconds but thank goodness they are termed out.

    What a joke.

  4. Notice how they couple liccardo and reed, now? liccardo and reed this, liccardo and reed that. As far as transparency, this administration has been some of the worse “coverts” and now, since liccardo is “trying” to become mayor, all of a sudden they try playing at wanting transparency. The funny thing about all of this is that it is so obvious that the things they now do are in trying to get liccardo an edge to becoming mayor. Sorry, sam. Won’t work. You couldn’t run your messed up district and you certainly can’t run the city.

    I got a political piece in the mail, today and it was from liccardo’s camp. It said something to the affect that Cortese would take us back in time. My first thought was, “Maybe that would be a good thing.” Go back in time to when things were happier in this city; when times were better. Citizens happier, employees loving their jobs, again. Yes, going back in time, prior to the last 8 years, would be a good thing. liccardo seems to keep trying to make it look as if Cortese will be taking us back to hardship but I don’t believe that for a minute. What Cortese will do is to do what the current administration DIDN’T do and that is to work WITH the employees and not AGAINST them. Reform is needed and we all know that. I do not think for one moment that he will change any of that. What I do believe is that he will work to correct all of the mess that liccardo, reed and the rest of the clowns created. He will bring back the trust, all while working with the employees to ensure that a FAIR reform happens. So, sam, you go right ahead and spread the lies and try to make him look bad. You’ve looked bad for the last 8 years. Cortese will be our next mayor and our city will then get back on track. The citizens will appreciate the refreshing environment instead of the hostile environment you, reed and the rest of the clown council have created. People will be able to breathe again.

  5. Very few holders of Pcards ever need to spend in excess of $1000… make them justify having a Pcard limit in excess of $1k…

    simply lowing the limits will greatly reduce abuse..