SANDAG finalizes new policies to clamp down on credit card misuse

The San Diego Affiliation of Governments now has new insurance policies intended to limit staff’s lavish cafe investing and credit score card misuse after a scathing audit, initially documented on by inewsource, flagged expenditures.

Board associates unanimously permitted the procedures throughout their board assembly Friday, now demanding staff members to submit significantly additional documentation for credit score card rates and business enterprise meals. The expense of meals are now subject to once-a-year prices set by the federal federal government in San Diego, for illustration, supper is capped at $34 for every particular person.

But SANDAG has but to finish its overview of previous transactions to establish irrespective of whether any “corrective motion,” such as disciplinary motion or requiring personnel to repay the company for prices, is necessary.

Deputy CEO Ray Main instructed inewsource SANDAG workforce are doing the job remotely soon after the company shut workplaces owing to a COVID-19 outbreak. Team will resume their evaluate of the unique receipts — stored on website in bankers bins — when they return in early July.

“A lot of people today are on the lookout at this company and the simple fact that we have discovered locations wherever monies have been invested in excessive,” claimed Carlsbad mayor and SANDAG board member Matt Corridor. “I consider the quicker we can obvious the air on this and get that monies back in our coffers, the far better it is.”

The new guidelines appear just after SANDAG’s internal auditor before this 12 months flagged “questionable” and “improper” transactions, like approximately $70,000 expended at area eating places about a 4-calendar year time period. inewsource afterwards obtained documents revealing that some of the agency’s greatest-compensated staff members consistently held business enterprise meetings at higher-profile restaurants and often have been joined by elected officials, fellow workers, consultants and lobbyists.

In September 2019, for case in point, a supper for 5 SANDAG officers at the superior-profile Occidental Grill in Washington, D.C. totaled a lot more than $700. The stop by incorporated branzino for everybody at the desk, appetizers and entrees such as a $52 “feature meat” dish and a virtually $50 filet mignon, amid other merchandise.

Taxpayers were being forced to foot the expenditures, and the agency’s credit rating cardholders ongoing to rack up fees without the need of any apparent regulations. The charges — produced at Rei Do Gado, Donovan’s steakhouse and in the U.S. Grant Lodge, between many others — were identified as by a single authorities ethics pro a “clear abuse” of general public funds.

Underneath the new principles, just just one staff will be permitted to use an company credit rating card for company meals: CEO Hasan Ikhrata. Which is irrespective of remaining a person of SANDAG’s major spenders, with $17,000 spent at dining places in just two decades.

The agency has justified his paying out, expressing the bills had been for “business purposes” to advance projects and priorities.

Ikhrata now ought to submit supplemental paperwork, including itemized receipts and assert forms that checklist attendees and the enterprise justification for the meeting. The profit of the meeting, a preliminary value estimate and “whether any real or perceived conflict of interest exists,” amid other elements, ought to be thought of.

Personnel will be skilled on the new procedures.

“To the extent that all of us ended up astonished by some of the revelations in the latest months, the way to suitable that is to truly pass these insurance policies so that we have principles of the highway for individuals to adhere to,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, SANDAG’s vice-chair, explained in advance of the vote Friday.

Mary Khoshmashrab, SANDAG’s unbiased efficiency auditor, has place her office’s guidance behind the procedures — she despatched drafts again to staff members four times in advance of bringing it to an audit committee — and programs to overview transactions right after the procedures are implemented. The agency’s board also will get typical experiences on the agency’s business enterprise foods.

Maria Flores

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