George Shirakawa Jr. shuffled out of office in disgrace two and a half years ago, but the former county supervisor’s egregious misuse of taxpayer funds created a financial odyssey so twisted that it continues to bedevil staff to this day.
Last month, the county’s Finance and Government Operations Committee (FGOC) received follow-up audits for all of Shirakawa’s purchases with taxpayer funds. It’s previously been reported that Shirakawa misspent almost $40,000 using his county-provided P-card, which is essentially a charge card. Nearly all of the policies policing such transactions have since been changed.
But at the August meeting, the FGOC requested an explanation on what happened to two electronic bicycles Shirakawa’s district office purchased and then handed over to the Sheriff’s office. The electronic bikes cost approximately $4,000 “after credit,” and they were purchased under the guise of looking for “alternative energy opportunities.” Bikes that run on human energy were apparently not considered “alternative” enough.
It seems the Sheriff’s Office tested the bikes for a month and realized it was a stupid idea. They gave them back to the vendor, but nobody realized the bikes were purchased rather than donated, according to the audit report. The vendor has since disappeared and chances of recouping the money are slim.
Will we ever know the full story? Probably not. The county counsel’s office has filed a lawsuit to try and recover $4,425 identified in the follow-up audits.
In the meantime, here’s the full summary according to a follow-up internal audit of Shirakawa’s misuse of taxpayer funds:
“At the August 13, 2015 meeting, the Finance and Government Operations Committee (FGOC) requested an explanation regarding the disposition of two electric bikes purchased by District 2 that were given to the Office of the Sheriff. At the meeting, the Controller-Treasurer could not provide sufficient information to answer concerns of the FGOC. After the meeting, the Controller-Treasurer discovered that the Office of the Sheriff thoroughly reviewed the circumstances surrounding the use and disposition of the bikes and communicated this information to Internal Audit Division staff back in 2013. In this communication, the Office of the Sheriff indicated that its staff were under the belief that the bikes were given to the Office of the Sheriff in 2009 on a trial basis and did not know that District 2 purchased them. After using the bikes for a few months, they were deemed unsuitable for law enforcement purposes. The vendor who provided the bikes was notified of this determination and was requested to pick up the bikes, which was done by the vendor. A refund of the purchase price was not attempted by the Office of the Sheriff as its staff was under the impression that the bikes were lent to it on a trial basis and were not purchased.
“In an attempt to jump start the refund process, Controller-Treasurer staff attempted to make contact with the vendor. However, staff discovered that the vendor ceased operations in 2012 per Board of Equalization records. A call to the landlord who rented space to the vendor in Sausalito, California revealed no forwarding mail address or contact information. A search for the owner of the business revealed a possible location in Mill Valley, California, but no physical or email address or phone number for the owner could be found. Therefore, there appears to be little chance of recouping the purchase price at this time, but Controller-Treasurer staff will continue to monitor social media websites to discover contact information for the owner.”