As Santa Clara County struggled to eliminate annual deficits exceeding $200 million over the past four years, board of supervisors president George Shirakawa Jr. rang up more than 250 charges on his county-issued Visa card. These include 186 meals, of which only three were accompanied with itemized receipts, as county rules require. The county’s top elected official broke the $30 dinner spending limit with steaks that cost as much as $102 each (including tax and tip), violated the ban on alcohol purchases and claimed that his meetings with lobbyists, political consultants and friends were official county business. A regular at taquerias, Chinese restaurants, Italian bistros and rib joints, the board’s runaway frequent diner avoided detection by filing a “missing receipt” declaration more than 180 times. Amazingly, Shirakawa never lost the top copy of the receipt—the one with the tip and total—only the slip that details the number of guests and the items consumed.
Shirakawa is already under investigation by the District Attorney’s political integrity unit and the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission after Metro reported that the supervisor broke state law by repeatedly failing to file financial disclosures for his 2008 campaign’s $110,000 in debts.
A new investigation by Metro’s Josh Koehn uncovered more examples of official misconduct by the embattled supervisor, who was re-elected to a four-year term in an unopposed race in June.
Among the revelations that appear in the October 31 issue of the Metro weekly newspaper:
• On at least three occasions, Shirakawa fraudulently declared in a signed statement that “No ALCOHOL was served,” when in fact it was, according to dinner checks obtained by Metro and a statement by San Jose’s police chief.
• Shirakawa has provided the county credit card number to three casinos: Rio Suites casino in Las Vegas, Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln and Harvey’s Casino in Lake Tahoe. Charges at each were paid for by the county and subsequently reversed or reimbursed.
• Shirakawa and his chief of staff, Eddie Garcia, spent three days in San Diego in 2009, staying at the 4-star Marriott Marquis waterfront hotel and driving around San Diego in a Mercury Grand Marquis luxury rental to tour an ambulance service’s facility. Cost to taxpayers: $1,742.
• During the first half of 2012, Shirakawa rented SUVs five times at rates as high as $165 a day, with the average rental $635. One of the rentals was purely personal, and the supervisor reimbursed the county—four months later.
• Most of Shirakawa’s charges sail right past county finance officials. However, in the last two years, Shirakawa has been forced to reimburse the county for 16 rejected charges totaling $4,614.18. These charges included hotel rooms on a Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, a couple of dinners and plane tickets and two golf outings.
• Two weeks after he was elected president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, Shirakawa and Xavier Campos crashed a post-State of the City dinner party that San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore held Feb. 9 with senior SJPD staff at The Grill on the Alley. Shirakawa pulled out his county-issued Visa card, offered to split the tab and included the $548 charge on his signed February 2012 expense report as “Meet with San Jose Police Chief and Command Staff.” According to Moore, there was no official business to discuss. The purely social dinner was “not a meeting,” Moore says, and included bottles of wine. Moore says he had no idea Shirakawa billed the county for the dinner. The chief sent a letter and $400 check reimbursement to the county Tuesday, according to the SJPD.
• A week later, Shirakawa’s Feb. 17 dinner with Councilman Xavier Campos and Deputy City Manager Noberto Dueñas at P.F. Chang’s included Devil’s Canyon Amber Draft, Stella Artois and a piña colada. See the P.F. Chang’s George Shirakawa charge slip and missing receipt memorandum that Shirakawa submitted—and the actual itemized receipt that he failed to turn in.