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Recent Examples of Government Waste, Fraud and Mismanagement

Education

  • State Spends $2.6 Million to Rent Vacant Building for Two Years. The state has spent $1.3 million a year to rent a vacant office building for the past two years, investigative reporter Mike Luery reported July 13.

    Mr. Luery, who frequently unveils government waste in his "On the Money" feature for Sacramento television station CBS-13, found that the building in Rancho Cordova is leased by EdFund, the non-profit auxiliary of the California Student Aid Commission, which had planned to move there.

    "CBS-13 learned that the Student Aid Commission was told not to move in," Mr. Luery reported. "The state was planning to sell EdFund and didn't want to have the Student Aid Commission move in to the empty building – only to have the commission move out, in the event of a sale."

    Instead, the Student Aid Commission was moved to another location where the rent reportedly is cheaper than it would have been in the EdFund building. A spokesman for the state Department of Finance said that by not moving the commission into the empty building, the state saved more than $1 million.

    Still, the rent for an empty office is coming out of the student loan operating fund, and apparently will continue to be paid until EdFund is sold. The Student Aid Commission said the $2.6 million could have provided financial aid for up to 1,000 college students (while the money comes out of the "student loan" fund, the report said the aid to students would be in the form of grants, not loans, so the money would not have to be paid back by the students).

    When the television crew went to the property to film the empty office space, it initially was met by a security guard and EdFund lawyer who attempted to stop the cameraman from filming, and threatened to call police to remove the crew from the property. An EdFund spokeswoman later agreed to be interviewed and said the guard and lawyer may have been overprotective because of the "confidential nature of what we do."

    Commenting on the report, news anchor Sam Shane noted: "No private business would be in business if they ran it like this." (Source: CBS-13's "On the Money," July 13.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: The state should identify any other unused properties that are being rented or maintained with tax dollars, and should take immediate steps to improve the management of its resources. It doesn't make sense that while taxpayers are paying $1.3 million a year to rent an empty building, the state is moving forward with plans to sell state-owned offices and then rent them back from the new owners.

  • Despite Budget Problems, CSU Continues Offering Generous Salaries. The California State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously July 13 to keep the annual salary of incoming Cal Poly interim President Robert Glidden roughly the same as that received by outgoing President Warren Baker, who is retiring at the end of the month after 31 years as president.

    Mr. Baker is paid $328,209 per year, making him the highest-paid of the 23 CSU presidents. The brand new president, who is slated to begin at Cal Poly on August 1, will receive $328,200 – just $9 less than the 31-year veteran.

    The CSU board also voted to provide Mr. Glidden with a university-owned vehicle and housing on the Cal Poly campus. The outgoing president receives a $60,000 housing allowance per year for his off-campus residence, plus a $1,000-a-month car allowance.

    Mr. Glidden, 73, previously served as the president of Ohio University from 1994 to 2004.

    The board also voted to provide interim San Jose State University President Don W. Kassing with a $328,200 annual salary, a $25,000 supplement from private donation money handled by a university foundation, a car or a $1,000-a-month car allowance, and a home at the university.

    The CSU's recently appointed vice chancellor and chief academic officer, Ephraim P. Smith, will receive $285,000 this year, plus a $1,000-a-month vehicle allowance, the trustees decided. (Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune, July 14.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: As part of the annual budget process, the Legislature and governor should take a close look at the salary structures of California's taxpayer-funded schools, to determine how much money is being soaked up by overly generous administrative salaries and perks instead of going into classrooms to help students.

  • University of California Sends Work to Kansas. All undergraduates entering the University of California system must demonstrate their writing ability either by reaching certain scores on standardized tests or by passing the Analytical Writing Placement Examination (AWPE). Before taking the AWPE, a student must pay an examination fee – currently $90 – online or through the mail. The prepaid envelope for sending payment has a return address of "University of California AWPE; 3833 Greenway Drive; Lawrence, KS 66046-9900." The building located at that Kansas address houses Scantron, the Education Measurement Group and other affiliates of NCS Pearson Inc.

    Cal-Tax recommendation: State officials should examine why the University of California is using a Kansas-based company to process payments for tests taken in California and graded by UC faculty. If UC is using out-of-state companies because the costs are higher here, steps should be taken to restore California's competiveness by reducing the cost of doing business in this state.

  • Stockton School District Asked to Repay Nearly $1 Million in Unapproved Spending. The California Department of Education is asking the Stockton Unified School District to return $962,000 that was spent on unapproved classroom materials.

    The request was made after the Department of Education sent in auditors. According to school board members, former Superintendent Anthony Amato was advised by district staff not to purchase the materials in question – for a program called "Success for All" – because the district would not be able to use them.

    The "Success for All" materials now reside in a district warehouse, gathering dust. Mr. Amato was fired in September, and is now heading up a school in New Orleans. Mr. Amato previously was let go from superintendent positions in New Orleans, Hartford and Kansas City.

    School board members claim they were kept in the dark about the questionable purchases. Beverly Fitch McCarthy, the school board president, said: "It never occurred to us to say, 'Is this on the approved list?' He's the superintendent. He should be knowledgeable. He shouldn't even be bringing us these programs if they're not approved."

    The chief financial officer of the district said the district is facing a "bare-bones budget," and currently is able to repay the state only $140,000. (Source: Mike Luery's On the Money, CBS 13-Sacramento, July 7.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: School board members, as elected officials representing parents, students and taxpayers, should be knowledgeable about how schools are spending the hard-earned tax dollars of the district's residents. School board members should take responsibility for the district's finances by asking the district's staff how their funds are being spent. Cal-Tax applauds the Department of Education for keeping local school districts accountable, and encourages the auditors to continue investigating how tax dollars are used in other schools.)

  • San Jose College Leader Worked Another Job While on Sick Leave. The San Jose Mercury News reports: "A top executive at the financially troubled San Jose/Evergreen Community College District earned a full salary while on sick leave this spring — yet, during that same period, she earned a separate salary teaching at another nearby district."

    Bayinaah Jones, whose title at the San Jose district is executive director of institutional effectiveness, earned $30,672 on sick leave there, but apparently was healthy enough to hold down a $5,775 teaching position in the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District.

    The revelation follows a searing state audit of the San Jose district's books. Auditors were critical of spending by former Chancellor Rosa Perez, who is Ms. Jones' live-in partner, and who also took paid sick leave — for eight months, earning $25,000 each month – until retiring this month due to health reasons.

    Records show that Ms. Jones took sick leave from her $123,000 position – "per my physician's order," she wrote in an e-mail message – in April, May and June of this year. She said she remains sick "until further notice."

    During those same months, the Mercury News reported, she commuted to a job teaching Introduction to Sociology classes at DeAnza College, for three hours a night every Monday and Wednesday during the spring quarter. In e-mails to the newspaper, both DeAnza and San Jose/Evergreen confirmed Ms. Jones' employment. However, Ms. Jones told the newspaper in an e-mail: "I do not have concurrent employment. Your information is incorrect." She declined to explain further, and referred questions to school officials who said they would not comment because the situation involves confidential medical information.

    The state Department of Finance said the district's board is fiscally responsible for Ms. Jones' behavior.

    The Mercury News noted that budget cuts have resulted in the cancellation of classes and lay-offs of 19 workers last year. "They sacked several employees whose only crime was to remain at their posts," said San Jose City College photography professor Ciaran MacGowan.

    The situation involving Ms. Jones "shows a complete lack of respect for taxpayers, students, faculties and administrations of both districts," said Randi Kinman, a former San Jose planning commissioner who now helps lead the nearby Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Association. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, July 5.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: School officials should examine how their existing policies allowed this situation to occur, and should make sure it doesn't happen again. They also should thoroughly assess Ms. Jones' claims and take disciplinary steps if warranted.

  • Grand Jury Says Peralta Community College District Is Wasting Tax Dollars. A grand jury released a report July 7 slamming the Peralta Community College District for lax oversight and wasting taxpayer dollars.

    The district is marked by a lack of transparency and accountability, the Alameda County civil grand jury wrote in its annual report. Spending on travel and dining have run rampant in the four-college district, jurors found, and trustees have shown little responsibility in their oversight. (Cal-Tax: As reported on page 14, an accrediting commission has put the district on probation because of fiscal concerns.)

    The grand jury's nine-month investigation was prompted by a series of stories published by Bay Area News Group in July 2009, the report noted.

    The San Jose Mercury News reported: "The jury specifically criticized Peralta trustees for their silence on important issues. 'Their willingness to remain individually silent on multiple issues, such as the chancellor's performance, has led the board to questionable decision-making,' the jury concluded. 'The board as a whole has failed to provide the leadership for the district to which they were elected.'"

    Among trustees' transgressions were double-dipping on meals during trips (receiving a daily stipend for food while also including the same meals on hotel bills), spending hundreds of public dollars per month on home offices without adequate oversight or documentation, and misusing the district's credit cards.

    The district includes four campuses: Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland, Berkeley City College and College of Alameda. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, July 7.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: Voters should replace the school board with reformers who will take an active interest in their duty to safeguard public funds and direct every available penny to the classroom.

  • State Auditor Says School District Used $451,000 Inappropriately. The state auditor reported June 15 that the San Dieguito Union High School District's (San Diego County) has generally used its bond funds appropriately, but spent $451,000 for inappropriate purposes.

    The money was spent on relocatable facilities that were used as administrative offices rather than as classrooms, and for housing and demographic studies.

    The auditor also stated that "although the school district's responses to public requests for records usually met legally mandated deadlines, deficiencies in the school district's records often prevented us from determining whether the school district provided the requested documents."

    The spending involved money generated by bonds that are repaid through a special tax levied on the owners of property located within the district. (Source: California State Audit Report 2009-116, June 15.)

  • During Budget Crisis, University of California Adds to Ranks of Highly Paid Senior Officials. The San Francisco Chronicle reports: "It has been a period of austerity at the University of California, with layoffs, across-the-board pay cuts and fee hikes. Yet some UC employees earned significantly more money in 2009 than in 2008, with two more million-dollar earners added to the payroll, new salary data show. The number of UC employees classified as 'senior officials' – earning more than $214,000 in total compensation – rose 6.3 percent, to 3,184 from 2,996 people. Lucrative overtime pay also rose sharply. Employees earning more than $10,000 in OT climbed 79 percent, to 2,733 from 1,531 employees."

    The paper noted that UC's top overtime earner, an operating room nurse at UC San Francisco Medical Center, took in nearly $97,000, boosting her total compensation to more than $320,000. The figures come from payroll data for 250,249 people paid by UC in calendar year 2009, and from UC's new report on executive compensation. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, June 3.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: Clearly, operating room nurses are crucial employees who deserve fair compensation, but massive overtime spending raises red flags about possible management problems. State lawmakers should review the UC's pay and management policies as they craft the new state budget.

  • Grand Jury Says San Diego Schools Misspent $100,000. The San Diego County grand jury has uncovered the misuse of $100,000 in student funds within the San Diego Unified School District, and is recommending heightened oversight and fraud detection.

    The grand jury found that Associated Student Body funds were used for a staff Christmas party at a magnet school, and for staff mugs, polo shirts and other unauthorized expenses. The panel also reported that some schools illegally charged student fees – for everything from band instruments to cheerleading uniforms – for decades. (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, June 2.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: The school district says it has already taken steps to correct some of the problems, but residents should attend school board meetings and maintain pressure on school officials to make sure they address the problems. Especially during times of budget upheaval, school officials should do everything they can to make sure money is going to vital classroom instruction for students, and is not being squandered on perks for adults.

  • UC Planning to Cut $500 Million of Administrative Waste. At a University of California Board of Regents meeting on May 19 in San Francisco, university officials presented a plan to cut administrative waste by $500 million. UC President Mark Yudof said the university wastes money by being too decentralized.

    A recent study commissioned by UC Berkeley found that that campus alone could save $93 million to $135 million through operational efficiencies (see Cal-Taxletter of April 16).

    President Yudof said: "If we can agree (to consolidate) some of those things we can save a lot of money and put it back into students and faculty and staff, which is where it belongs in the first place."

    Nathan Brostrom, the executive vice president for business operations, said: "It is imperative that we re-examine now the way we operate both as a system and campuses."

    Russell Gould, chair of the Board of Regents and a former director of finance under Governor Pete Wilson, said that this efficiency push is a top priority.

    One area of potential savings is purchasing, where UC spends $4 billion a year on supplies. UC Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor said that in the past, each campus ordered its own supplies and from different suppliers. Centralization of some purchases can result in lower prices. He said he has already saved $48 million in this area and believes savings of an additional $100 million are possible. Citing another example of savings, Mr. Taylor said he was shocked to find that almost every employee in the UC's Office of the President had his or her own printer. Mr. Taylor said that since he started work there, he has gotten rid of 400 printers, saving UC $300,000 in ink, equipment and maintenance – though that still leaves a staff of 700 with more than 200 printers, or one printer for every three or four workers.

    (Cal-Tax has been calling for the elimination of waste as a top priority and recently published an expansive report on waste and fraud.) (Sources: University of California Press Release, May 19, The Sacramento Bee, May 20.)

  • Students Shut Out of College Aid Due to School District's Error. The Ventura County Star reports: "Some Oxnard Union High School District seniors did not receive state grants in their college financial aid packages because the district provided incorrect graduation dates for them. As many as 1,500 students might have been affected, officials said. The mistake is being fixed, but at least one student said it led her to turn down her dream school for one that would be less expensive."

    Adding insult to injury, the newspaper reported that the error was discovered at Pacifica High School in April, but the school district did not act quickly once it was informed of the error by Pacifica's principal. The error wasn't addressed by the district until after May 1, when students nationwide must tell colleges that accepted them whether they are planning to enroll.

    The mistake happened when a worker put 2008, instead of 2010, as the graduation date for this year's seniors on forms sent to the California Student Aid Commission. That made those students ineligible for Cal Grants, which the commission distributes, said Martha Mutz, the district's assistant superintendent for educational services.

    Cal Grants provide up to $4,026 a year for a California State University campus, $7,788 for the University of California and $9,708 for private universities. The grants are provided on a sliding scale, but they generally go to lower-income students.

    The Student Aid Commission has assigned three people to re-enter information for the approximately 1,500 students affected, said Tae Kang, Cal Grant operations manager. Mr. Kang added, "We get mistakes like this every year, but not usually of this magnitude."

    Some schools have announced that they are open to appeals from students who turned down acceptance offers due to financial worries caused by the error. (Source: Ventura County Star, May 12.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: This is the same district that last week was ordered by a jury to pay $5,700 in damages to the family of an autistic student whose lunch money was stolen on a daily basis by a teacher's aide. Clearly, the district needs to improve its oversight of staff, before any more students are robbed of lunch money or the opportunity for financial aid.

  • Consultants Find Millions of Potential Savings at UC Berkeley. The University of California's Berkeley campus could save $93 million to $135 million with operational efficiencies, according to a new report by Bain and Company, a consulting firm hired to find waste. The report urges university officials to make an effort "to capture at least $75 million in annual operational cost savings."

    There are five big areas of what the San Francisco Chronicle refers to as "bloat." They are:

    • Management Overstaffing. The consultant sees savings of $40 million to $55 million by reducing management overstaffing. "The university has many layers (11) and relatively narrow spans of supervisory controls (average of 4.4)," the report states. In fact, 55 percent of supervisors have three or fewer direct reports.

    • Inefficient Purchasing. Fragmented purchasing is undermining campus buying power. There is a lack of standards for commonly purchased goods, and spending is fragmented across thousands of vendors – 75 percent more vendors per dollar than at benchmark institutions. The consultants estimate potential savings of $25 million to $40 million in this category.

    • Student Services: Productivity Varies Significantly and Programs Overlap. The consultant believes $15 million to $25 million in potential savings are possible by reforming the $220 million spent on student services. Productivity varies significantly, and more than 50 different services are offered with instances of overlapping programs and functions across differing units.

    • Information Technology Standards Lacking. The campus spends $130 million on information technology and there are savings of $10 million to $16 million possible in this area. There are few standards, and procurement leads to increased costs. IT staff and decisions are decentralized, causing higher institutional cost and risk.

    • Energy Consumption Above Average. A big surprise is that at a campus where environmental issues are stressed, energy consumption is not systematically measured and managed. Consumption is slightly above average compared to other California universities. A potential savings of $3 million to $4 million can be achieved in this area.

    Berkeley Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary said: "We will get push-back in certain quarters. But the fact that the state has so consistently disinvested in our organization … most people really appreciate the need to change."

    Professor Chris Kutz, chair of the Faculty Senate, said, "We've been a very decentralized, sluggish bureaucracy for a long time."

    Liza Kemish, statewide vice president of the University Professional and Technical Employees Union, said, "I imagine we'll want to talk with each other and develop a coordinated plan to fight back." (Sources: Report by Bain and Company, "Achieving Operational Excellence at University of California, Berkeley," and San Francisco Chronicle, April 13.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: The public should be outraged that it has taken a budget crisis to force the university to operate efficiently. The university should be doing this as a steward of taxpayer dollars. It also is upsetting that public employee unions fight efforts to eliminate waste. We recommend that the state push for follow-through on the problems identified in this report, and that other campuses be examined, as well. It is more likely than not that similar studies at other UC campuses would turn up waste of a similar magnitude.

  • Districts Spending Millions on Error-Filled Math Textbooks. If you are an elementary school student in the Sacramento Unified or Folsom-Cordova Unified school districts, your new math textbook instructs you that "3 x 5 = 5." That's not the only mistake – fourth-grade students have documented 90 errors in the books.

    The two districts spent $1.9 million combined on the new math books. It is likely that many other districts in California also have wasted hard-earned taxpayer dollars on the books.

    Teachers also are weighing in. A teacher in Sacramento Unified said the district had a wonderful program with Saxon Math and replaced it with an inadequate one. (Source: The Sacramento Bee, April 1, but not an April Fools' Day joke.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: Schools are trying to blame the publisher, but someone in the school districts should take some responsibility for thoroughly checking a textbook before spending $1.9 million on it. If the districts had done their homework, they could have refrained from purchasing the books with the errors, and could have purchased another series. On a more fundamental basis, when schools are strapped for money and cutting important instructional programs, why buy new books? Schools should make the old books last a year or two longer, especially in a subject like elementary school math, which does not change much from year to year.

  • School Superintendent Gets Huge Payment to Leave One District, Then Gets Hired by Another District and Leads it to Failure. The State Board of Education recently made history by taking over two school districts for academic and leadership failures. The story of how one of the districts arrived at this embarrassing juncture is a textbook example of mismanagement in the public education system.

    The district is the Alisal Union School District in Salinas. The superintendent of the district is Esperanza Zendejas, who formerly was superintendent of the East Side Union High School District in San Jose.

    Ms. Zendejas was forced out of the San Jose district in 2005, after two years on the job, and was given a $337,000 severance deal. Her hand-picked personnel director succeeded her, until he recently was forced out over allegations of what the San Jose Mercury News described as "financial shenanigans."

    After getting the massive severance deal, Ms. Zendejas joined the Salinas area district, where her job performance again led district officials to seek her ouster. The Alisal board asked her to resign, but she refused. The board got her to leave, but only by rehiring her as a $14,000-a-month "consultant." While paying this generous sum, the district also hired an interim superintendent for $168,000 a year.

    Now, the State Board of Education has sent a trustee to take over the district, with the agency citing the school district's failure to progress toward educational standards. The state board also said the district's leaders have problems "managing adult relationships." (Source: San Jose Mercury News, April 4.)

    Cal-Tax recommendation: School boards should do a better job of hiring superintendents, and should not offer severance deals that waste taxpayers' money.

  • Sacramento School District Hires Six-Figure Spokesman While Teachers Get Pink Slips. The Sacramento City Unified School District recently handed out 738 pink slips to teachers, notifying them of the possibility of being laid off later this year, but that didn't stop the district from hiring a new spokesman for $114,178 per year.

    Former Sacramento River Cats spokesman Gabe Ross will fill the newly created "chief communication officer" position. Former school spokeswoman Maria Lopez left the district last week to take a job as a communication associate for the California Department of Education, which is having budget problems of its own.

    In an unintentionally ironic statement, Mr. Ross said, "It's a time of great need in the district, and I am looking forward to bringing my experience and expertise to schools when we desperately need all the resources possible." (Source: The Sacramento Bee, March 14 and March 17.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: Schools should examine their priorities and focus on their primary duty – educating students. In a time of budget shortfalls, keeping dollars in the classroom should be a higher priority than hiring a six-figure public relations expert to put out press releases saying more money is needed.)

  • Teachers’ Union Sues to Get School District to Pay Teacher for Five Days at Family Reunion. The Folsom-Cordova Teachers Union wants taxpayers to pay for the five days that teacher Edith Hiatt took off work to attend a family reunion. Claiming the union's bargained contract with the school district requires Ms. Hiatt to be paid, the union filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court in January.

    Mark Schultz, president of the teachers' union, said, "We have a contract and we feel it should be honored."

    Steven Nichols, a district spokesman, said: "We don't want teachers to go on vacation in the school year, during instructional time. It's an additional cost we cannot afford to spend, especially right now."

    (Cal-Tax: However, the issue is not that clear-cut. Most school boards have caved in to teachers’ unions, and now give time off with pay for "personal necessity," usually amounting to five to 10 days a year. Considering that teachers get ample vacations over summer, two weeks off at Christmas, a week at spring break and Easter, as well as sick leave, allowing additional time off for "personal necessity" is a big boondoggle. The issue in this case is whether attendance at a family reunion is a "personal necessity.") (Source: The Sacramento Bee, March 5.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: School boards should not expand the opportunities for teachers to get full pay for not teaching. This is the hidden underbelly of school finance – when schools are promoting additional taxes and students are demonstrating around the state, this benefit and many others like it should be mentioned as areas where savings are possible.)

  • Paper Calls for Cutting "Explosive" Growth in UC Senior Management. The University of California needs to slow the "explosive growth in senior management," The Sacramento Bee said in a February 28 editorial. According to the paper, senior management has grown 97 percent in the past 10 years, while student growth has been 40 percent and the growth in faculty has been 23 percent in the same time period.

    Put another way, the university now has about as many senior administrators as faculty (8,470 senior administrators vs. 8,851 faculty). If the number of senior administrators had grown by the same percentage as faculty over the last 10 years, the savings would be about $300 million a year.

    Administrators typically are the highest paid people on campuses, The Bee noted, as most earn over $100,000 a year plus generous benefits. (Source: The Sacramento Bee, February 28.)

  • State Still Spends Heavily on Travel, Conferences and New Vehicles. The Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee reports that state agencies spent heavily last year on items that may not have been necessary, despite state budget problems that were widely viewed as being extremely dire.

    The committee found that during the brief three-month period of January to March 2009, the following spending occurred:

    • The Department of Education spent $945,209 and the Department of Consumer Affairs spent $245,430 on conferences and outside meetings;

    • The Department of Motor Vehicles spent $1.73 million on new furniture, while the California Air Resources Board spent $433,000 on new furnishings, the Department of General Services spent $785,785, and the Health and Human Services Agency spent $306,393.

    • New vehicles were purchased by the Department of Transportation ($10.4 million), the department of Forestry and Fire ($1.6 million), the Department of Motor Vehicles ($900,000) and the Department of Parks and Recreation ($5.2 million).

    (Source: Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee report, February 10.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: When drafting this year's state budget, the Legislature and governor should eliminate spending for new furniture and new vehicles that are not absolutely necessary, such as for emergency response purposes. These are tough times for taxpayers, and they shouldn't have to pay for non-necessities for government while they are cutting their own family budgets to the bone.)

  • Audit Finds $200 Million Payroll Mess in Los Angeles Unified. Auditors in Los Angeles reported that school officials paid out $200 million more in salaries in 2009 than the district had originally budgeted. Despite large layoffs and unfilled positions, Los Angeles Unified spent $4.9 billion in 2009. City Auditor Wendy Greul said there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but auditors were unable to determine how $200 million of the money was spent. (Source: Los Angeles Daily News, January 14.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: Obviously, more oversight is required. In the meantime, further investigation is needed to determine how $200 million went missing.)

  • Community College Trustee Spends Almost $30,000 on Travel. John Williams, a trustee of the South Orange County Community College District, is a travelin' man. Mr. Williams spent $29,578 in tax dollars traveling to conferences and meetings from July 2007 through December 2009, the OC Watchdog blog reports. The blog notes: "That's more than four times as much as any of the other trustees. Four of the six trustees have spent less than $1,000 over the same period."

    Mr. Williams said the travel is necessary to represent the district's interests – such as by trying to keep the state from raiding the district's budget – and to keep up on changes that impact the colleges' technology courses.

    In addition to paying for travel, the district spent $12,184 on catering during board meetings over the past 2 ½ years, and spends nearly $18,000 per trustee for health benefits (even though the positions are part-time posts with stipends of $4,800 per year). (Source: OC Watchdog, January 20.)

    (Cal-Tax recommendation: While it's possible that Mr. Williams has brought some useful information back to the community colleges after his voyages, we wonder if any economic analysis has been done to determine the cost-benefit ratio. Also, it does not make sense to continue spending tax dollars on conferences while community colleges are struggling to offer courses.)

 

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