Board of Supervisors to Discuss P-Card Audits at First Meeting of the Year

In a bid to move on from the scandal ignited by county Supervisor George Shirakawa abusing his taxpayer-funded credit card, the Board of Supervisors will tackle the issue Tuesday morning instead of later this month.

The county’s Finance and Government Operations Committee—led by Supervisor Ken Yeager, who succeeded Shirakawa as board president in 2013—recommended at a meeting last week to vote Tuesday on an audit of expenses incurred by each of the five supervisors. Yeager says he’d rather discuss the credit card controversy now rather than later, most likely to avoid tainting the Jan. 29 meeting, when he’s slated to deliver the annual state of the county speech.

Supervisors in December voted to revise the county’s credit card policy to ban charitable donations of any kind and require public quarterly reports of public officials’ spending.

The audit, which came out in early December and is now up for a vote, reported the following expenses incurred:

George Shirakawa Jr. — $36,837 between January 2009 to September 2012
Liz Kniss — $21,946 from January 2011 to December 2012.
Mike Wasserman — $14,825, from January 2011 through September 2012.
Ken Yeager — $5,023, January 2011 through September 2012
Dave Cortese — $31,562, January 2011 through September 2012
 
Listed here are a few more of the main items on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for January 15, 2013, which will also be a homecoming of sorts for former/current Supervisor Joe Simitian:

• It makes more sense to prevent scandal than to clean up after the fact, which is why Supervisor Dave Cortese recommends the county come up with some credit card alternatives. A possible option, he says, could be to designate a county employee to monitor expense accounts for each supervisor. Cortese suggests that such an employee could also help supervisors find the best price on an item by soliciting at least three quotes per purchase.

• Supes plan to vote on revisions to county rules about county credit card use. There’s an update about meal reimbursement, travel and even a ban on making charitable donations on the county’s dime.

• The YMCA plans to buy up property, renovate existing facilities and re-furnish several of its centers in the region, and the county is poised to lend the nonprofit organization $15 million in bond revenues to do that. The bonds would pay for renovations to YMCA buildings in Morgan Hill, San Jose, Mountain View, Saratoga, Cupertino and Santa Clara.

• Every year since 1988, the county’s Social Services Administration has received money from the California Dept. of Education to pay for childcare for low-income families within the county’s school systems. This year, the allocation came to nearly $2 million. None of that comes from the county’s general fund, because it’s a designated allocation from the state education agency, according to staff reports. The money goes toward poor families whose children are at risk of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

• The Health Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of Silicon Valley residents, awarded a $150,000 grant to the Valley Medical Center Foundation and the county to bring another farmers market to the area. Most of the grant—$72,000 of it—will pay for the market coordinator’s salary.

• The sheriff’s office applied for a state grant to “address the problem of marijuana cultivation in the county.” The agency got the $186,494 grant, which it will use to fund the salary and benefits of one deputy sheriff and one sheriff’s sergeant to get rid of illegal pot grows through September this year. Some of the cash goes to the DA’s office to help “with legal issues related to grant activities.”

• The county’s Marijuana Eradication Team, dubbed MET for short, destroyed more than 93,000 pot plants—that’s $200 million worth on the streets—in addition to seizing 520 pounds of ready-to-sell marijuana, nine weapons, $20,200 in cash and 21 suspects.

San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore retires this week and supervisors have nothing but good things to say about him, recognizing him for “his outstanding contribution to the community and heartfelt service to the residents of Santa Clara County.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

6 Comments

  1. The Merc is at it again with an editorial about Shirakawa.  They had their chance before the November election.  They decided that it was more important to pass the sales tax increase, and waited until after the election to go after Shirakawa.  Too bad for them.  They’re a day late and a dollar short.

    Shirakawa can laugh all the way to the bank.  One of these days, he’s going to get elected to Congress too.  The Merc will turn blue in the face over that too.

  2. Some facts comparing City Council Member Chuck Reed’s expenditures with Supervisor George Shirakawa’s.

    Take a good look at the San Jose Mercury News for September 26 & 27, 2006, where Reed is accused of wasting $38,000 as a City Council member…for membership dues, donations to a public TV station and “numerous ethnic organizations and environmental groups,” and advertising in event programs & publications.

    The inside headline for 9/27/2006 was:

    REED, Mayoral hopeful to repay about $38,000.

    So I have two questions:  Why wasn’t the Shirakawa matter explored politically before the 2010 election instead of a year later?

    And why is he getting so much attention when Reed has been so completely forgiven?

    =============

    By the way, Council Member Ken Yeager was busted in the 9/27/2006 article also for using tax dollars for a political dinner, membership dues to a chamber of commerce, and donations to a volunteer gardening group & a funeral tribute book.

  3. nice way to show Shirakawas 3 years of spending and compare it with 1` year of everybody else-lame. Way to railroad, at least its not the sizist, racist way everybody else is railroading him.

    • The county decided what time periods to audit. We have previously reported the total amounts each supervisor spent using their P-Cards. Cortese had the highest total at about $41K and George was second at roughly $36K. Cortese has noted that some of his spending was reimbursed by sponsorships at a later date. The majority of George’s purchases were for meals and entertainment.

      JK