SJ Credit Card Audit: Who Spent What

NBC Bay Area obtained the documents behind a City of San Jose credit card audit in order to get the detail the report lacked: identifying the city departments that violated policy and misused city credit cards.

A San Jose city audit released last week reviewed city credit card use for a one-year period and found some major violations of city policy. However, the report did not identify which city departments or employees were responsible for the abuses.

So NBC Bay Area filed a public records request for all the documents reviewed by the auditors for the report.

NBC Bay Area reviewed the 3,500 credit card (also call procurement or p-card) charges, receipts and documents related to the expenditures to see who charged some of the major violations mentioned in the audit.

In the report, auditors refer to a $2,300 dinner at "an expensive downtown San Jose restaurant" that included $700 spent on alcohol.

The receipts show the dinner was for a delegation visiting from Ireland last March. Thirty-two guests dined in the banquet hall at Paolo’s in San Jose and included a dozen $55 bottles from wineries such as Cakebread and Mondavi, all on the city's dime. Some of those attending: Mayor Chuck Reed, City Manager Ed Shikada and several city council members.

"We question why it was a prudent expenditure of taxpayer dollars to spend that much money on alcohol," City Auditor Sharon Erickson said Friday, even though alcohol purchases were approved for this meal.

"We do question in this report the use of p-cards for business meals for high level employees,"Erickson said.

In a statement, the city manager's office wrote:

“Under the City Procurement Cards policy, hosting dinners with alcoholic beverages is allowed for very limited economic development functions and events with prior approval by the City Manager. Even so, the City will continue to carefully review expenditures, like this, to ensure that tax dollars are being appropriately used. We certainly appreciate the Auditor’s review of the City’s P-card program which is overwhelmingly working well."

A city spokesperson also said the mayor didn’t have wine at the dinner and that:

"The mayor has been briefed by the city auditor and is exploring ways to increase transparency around p-card transactions."

The auditor’s report also mentions "one cardholder purchased ten $225 VIP tickets for a table at an awards dinner…according to the department, the recipients…were not City employees.” The report questions if this purchase fell under city card policy which requires that "Procurement Cardholders shall purchase the least expensive item that meets performance specifications and applicable policies."

Documents show the Director of Aviation for San Jose International Airport, Kim Aguirre, purchased those tickets for the “Women of Influence Awards” put on by the Silicon Valley Business Journal this past May.

The audit also questioned the purchase of a "$1,450 freezer for an employee use when numerous less expensive appliances were available.” Documents show it cost $1,585.78 with taxes and delivery and was purchased by the San Jose Fire Department.

The audit mentions another questionable charge by a city employee who rented a BMW for two and a half weeks after his personal car was totaled; documents reveal this employee was also with SJFD.

City p-cards policy states they are "to be used for official city business and may not be used for personal purchases under any circumstances."

The SJFD employee told the auditor he did not have his personal card on him at the time of the rental, meant to switch the charge, but never did. The card was suspended and the incident was referred to Employee Relations.

NBC Bay Area also found in the documents, four top-grain leather rocker chairs purchased by a firefighter in charge of facilities for nearly $3,500 total, not mentioned in the report.

"If they did knowingly use the credit card in violation of city policy or procedures, then there are some steps to take corrective action for that," Firefighter Union leader, Jose Guerrero told NBC Bay Area.
He says all employees get trained annually on proper use of city p-cards.

"All of us as city employees must adhere to honesty, integrity and transparency in the use of the city credit card."

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