Shirakawa Aide Leaves Behind Free Meals

The Mercury News reported over the weekend that Andrea Flores Shelton, county Supervisor George Shirakawa‘s deputy chief of staff, is changing positions to become a coordinator for the county Public Health Department.

The newspaper said that Shelton insisted her “departure has nothing to do with Shirakawa’s more recently publicized troubles,” which we can only assume is in part a euphemism for the fraudulent expense reports Shirakawa has filed, wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on lavish dinners, alcohol for friends, golf trips, casinos, and … the list continues.

We can only assume this, of course, because the daily paper of record in Silicon Valley has yet to follow up on Metro’s investigation from last week, which revealed, among other things, that Shirakawa lied on forms that stated no alcohol was purchased with county money. Or, maybe the newspaper didn’t see Metro‘s latest report and is referring to the campaign disclosure forms Shirakawa failed to file and laughed off in an interview.

The Merc has also not reported that San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore is on record stating that Shirakawa lied about a $548 dinner that was personal in nature but cited as a business meeting in expense forms the supervisor filed. Since then, Moore sent a $400 check to the county, reimbursing taxpayers for the meal. Political consultant and San Jose Inside columnist Rich Robinson did the same, and his letter was CC’d to a Merc reporter.

But the newspaper sits silent going on five days now, tacitly and explicitly endorsing the county sales tax increase, Measure A, in the face of evidence that shows the top elected official in the county repeatedly broke the law over the last four years, charging luxury hotel, rental cars and lavish dinners to his county-issued credit card and forwarding the bill to taxpayers.

Shelton told the newspaper that she wasn’t leaving Shirakawa’s office for fear of any fallout, and she praised him for doing “a wonderful job of trying to make the county more accessible and inclusive to all.” She’s right. Shirakawa showed many times in his expense reports that no man or woman in his company would be left wanting.

To prove that point, here’s a list of the staff lunches and dinners Shirakawa provided Shelton, according to his expense reports: (We won’t include the entire list of staff retreats/meetings at restaurants—such as the $218 outing to Cheesecake Factory in October 2011, or the $232 “staff meeting” at Grill on the Alley in June 2012—because that would take too long. According to his expense reports, Shirakawa expensed 68 total dining entries since January 2009 that included a staff member, 35 of which included multiple staff members.)

Great Wall
Sept. 21, 2010
$21.87

Flames
Dec. 10, 2010
$32.17

Old Ebbitt Grill*
April 3, 2011
$141.77

Gordon Biersch*
April 4, 2011
$63.43

Flames
Sept. 29, 2011
$34.63

Daily Grill*
Oct. 31, 2011
$75.13

Flames
Nov. 17, 2011
36.82

(* indicates that the meal took place during business trips in Washington, D.C.)

On a note not completely unrelated, Shirakawa and his Board of Supervisors colleagues met in closed session Monday. Included in the closed session agenda, which supervisors are not allowed to discuss publicly, is a “Public Employee Performance Evaluation.” The following positions, some of which would have been responsible for overseeing the two audits that found nothing suspicious in Shirakawa’s expense reports, include:

Chief of Correction
Clerk of the Board
County Counsel
County Executive
Director, Child Support Services
Public Defender

County Executive Jeff Smith and County Counsel Lori Pegg continue to evade requests for comment regarding Shirakawa’s expense reports.

UPDATE: A San Jose Inside reader has been emailing top Mercury News and Bay Area News Group (BANG) employees, inquiring why the newspaper has yet to report on Shirakawa’s fraudulent expense reports. In an email that Josh Koehn was CC’d, Dave Butler, Mercury News editor and BANG’s VP for news, wrote: “Karen de Sa is working on the story. When her investigation is done we’ll print it.”

Additionally, Gwen Mitchell, the county’s director for the Office of Public Affairs, said in an email Monday that the county is “providing requested documents, reviewing the situation, planning to take corrective action and otherwise not commenting.”

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

4 Comments

  1. What’s “Director, Child Support Services” doing on that list?  Was he assigned to Shirakawa?  (rimshot!)

    You are right about the Merc.  No integrity.

  2. The Merc has a huge agenda and it smells to high heaven. Crooks and liars who lie cheat and steal (Metro news stands)  ,,,, The public continues to be uninformed, or give a damn for that matter. So much for higher education in Silicon Valley! Pathetic

  3. You are right about the Merc having no integrity.
    Yep, they aren’t covering the story until after the election because they’ve endorsed Measure A. 
    They have not pulled their endorsement of David Neighbors even though the PAC supporting him has run an extremely negative and unfair campaign against Anna Song.  (And Neighbors was quoted as saying he doesn’t know what the PAC is doing – really?  After $250,000 in spending?)  Ditto for the Merc endorsements in East Side Union and Santa Clara Unified school board races – the Merc doesn’t pull their endorsements when it’s clear that the candidates are being supported by incredibly negative PACs. 

    No wonder their paid subscriber base is declining.  I know a couple more people who just canceled because they can’t stand the Merc’s elections coverage and editorials.