The Oakland Housing Authority has initiated an audit of its commissioners’ travel and expenditures, but some of the commissioners aren’t happy about it.
It comes just weeks after NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit revealed that commissioners double-dipped and some spent money on unexplained trips. The Investigative Unit report showed the total travel spending of the six commissioners was $148,559.76. Some of that included commissioners getting paid double daily stipends (or “per diem”). Others were paid twice for meals, and one commissioner took trips without documentation.
OHA Executive Director, Eric Johnson, called for the audit earlier this month, which is one of several steps he has taken in the weeks following the NBC Bay Area report to review and subsequently improve travel policies and procedures.
In the last board meeting in February, commissioners vocalized their feelings about the NBC Bay Area report.
“I’m not really sure this is serving the public good,” Chairperson Greg Hartwig said in the February 20 meeting.
“I’m really glad I was out of town for when the NBC people came in because I was denied an opportunity to screw up on camera,” Hartwig said.
“We got sucker punched,” said Moses Mayne, who interviewed with the Investigative Unit for the first report, said in the board meeting.
“They spin it the way they spin it and I’m sorry if I offended anybody but that was not my intent,” Mayne said.
The audio of the meeting is posted here. The Executive Director has moved to update the travel reporting papers (like the business trip request form[pdf] and the expense reporting form[pdf]), forcing commissioners to document details of their business trips and better hold commissioners accountable.
“We learned from what you did and tried to make it so every travel voucher is clearly understandable,” Johnson told NBC Bay Area in an interview Monday
“When we sat down and talked about what you found, it surprised me,” said Johnson. “We saw your story and you showed me some documents about per diem that was double paid between trips. That was the first thing that just caught my eye. There’s something there.”
Johnson says commissioners will have to pay back any extra cash they received.
The Investigative Unit asked the commissioners for comment on statements they made in the meeting. OHA’s spokesperson emailed NBC Bay Area the following:
Chairperson Hartwig said:
“Any comments made during the close of the meeting were informal, and only indicate that I have no experience related to media interviews and thought I might mess up the interview in general. The second comment you list was related to the amount of funds we are discussing, and my not knowing the dollar amount for the issues in your report.”
Commissioner Mayne said:
“I am awaiting the results from the internal audit and will then review my notes and calendar. Once I know specifically what trips are in question and why, I can review the relevant OHA records, and will be willing to discuss it further at that time.”
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