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WeHo Council Candidates Accuse Heilman Staff, WeHo Officials of Over-Spending Tax-Payer Dollars

WeHo Council Candidates Accuse Heilman Staff, WeHo Officials of Over-Spending Tax-Payer Dollars

by Karen Ocamb on March 8, 2011

West Hollywood City Council candidate Scott Schmidt holding up an image of a receipt at WeHo Council meeting Monday, March 7

On Monday, March 7, the day before the hotly contested election for three seats on the West Hollywood City Council, Transportation Commissioner and council candidate Scott Schmidt and five of the six other council candidates held a news conference alleging a credit card scandal at City Hall.

Schmidt also raised the issue at the West Hollywood City Council meeting Monday night, saying that he loves the city and “when you see someone that you love being abused, being taken advantage of, it really hurts. It offends the sensibilities. And I think that’s why people have sensed that there’s been an anger throughout this campaign.”

Citing information culled from city records by one-time council candidate Ed Buck and reported by the LA Weekly, Schmidt called for Mayor John Heilman to return “tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted on high-end meals and luxurious gifts for city hall staff, developers and lobbyists,” according to Schmidt’s press release, which claimed that…

“high-ranking officials in West Hollywood City Hall – including the personal staff to Mayor John Heilman – used city credit cards to spend as much as $100,000 on lavish gifts and luxurious meals with developers and lobbyists in 2010 alone.

“This blatant abuse of public money shows just how arrogant and out of touch City Hall has become after 27 years under John Heilman’s rule,” said Schmidt.  “While our seniors and renters are struggling to make ends meet, Heilman’s minions are wining and dining lobbyists and developers on our dime.  This is beyond outrageous and it must be stopped.”

The LA Weekly reported:

After sorting through thousands of receipts from two city credit cards, he revealed the shocking discovery that at least $13,000 in taxpayer dollars (and probably more like $100,000, if he had to guess) was dropped on overpriced meals and swanky gifts for city employees.

One card was most often swiped by Fran Solomon, deputy to Mayor John Heilman. The other card is registered to City Manager Paul Arevalo, and — after reviewing Buck’s pile of sample receipts — the LA Weekly has discovered that Arevalo is also the one who appears to be making the transactions. The only reason this is not more obvious…

… is that Arevalo was so arrogant as to not even fill out city forms for his purchases.

The West Hollywood Patch also covered the story, with an update that included a statement from the city’s Finance Department:

“All credit card purchases are reviewed by staff in the Finance Department to ensure appropriate documentation and that the purpose of the expenditure was for legitimate city business. No public funds have been expended for membership in the Soho House and the Montblanc pens were gifts celebrating major employee milestones.”

The statement also said the city of West Hollywood has in place a written expense reimbursement policy adopted by the City Council that complies with the requirements of Government Code Sections (AB 1234).  ”Any expenditure charged on a city of West Hollywood credit card must be in compliance with the policy and in furtherance of a municipal purpose,” the statement said.

The Weekly posted an updated statement from the city:

“The credit card expenditures for 2010 incurred by City employee, Fran Solomon, totaled less than $2,000 for the entire year. According to our records, these expenditures were for official City business meetings with various community stakeholders. Additional expenditures on the credit card were incurred by other staff persons in the furtherance of municipal business and there are no violations of any City policies in the use of the City’s official credit card. Additionally, no public funds have been expended for any private club membership and the pens and gift cards were in recognition of employee milestones.
The City of West Hollywood understands and has always taken seriously its fiduciary responsibility in managing public funds. The City has in place a written expense reimbursement policy adopted by the City Council that complies with the requirements of Government Code Sections 53232.2 and 53232.3 (“AB 1234″). Any expenditure charged on a City of West Hollywood credit card must be in compliance with the policy and in furtherance of a municipal purpose. All credit card purchases are reviewed by staff in the Finance Department to ensure appropriate documentation and that the purpose of the expenditure was for legitimate City business.”

Schmidt posted the expenditures on his campaign site:

January 2010 Billing Cycle

  • Charge #69: $99.41 for lunch with Steve Afriat on 12/29
  • Charge #82: $152.82 for lunch for 9 people at Hugos
  • Charge #83: $197.92 at Cecconi’s

March 2010

  • Charge #48: $75.00 for lunch for 2 at BOA
  • Charge #54: $33.47 at Le Petit Bistro by Fran Solomon
  • Charge #59: $90.83 at Cecconi’s
  • Charge #60: $50.53 lunch with Richard Weintraub at Basix
  • Charge #63: $96.22 at Cecconi’s
  • Charge #64: $53.96 at Cecconi’s
  • Charge #21: $101 at BOA by Fran Solomon
  • Charge #24: $91 at Cecconi’s by Fran Solomon

April 2010 Billing Cycle

  • Charge #66: $109.75 for lunch at Soho House
  • Charge #67: $195.26 for lunch at Soho House
  • Charge #68: $142.68 at Soho House
  • Charge #75: $159.90 at Madeo
  • Charge #77: $114.58 at Madeo
  • Charge #78: $98.78 at Soho House
  • Charge #81: $219.28 at Soho House
  • Charge #82: $308.40 at Soho House

May 2010 Billing Cycle

  • Charge #28: $93 at Cecconi’s by Fran Solomon
  • Charge #32: $50 at Canter’s Deli by Fran Solomon
  • Charge #44: $52 at Food Lab by Fran Solomon
  • Charge #46: $131.70 at Soho House
  • Charge #46: $144.92 at Cecconi’s
  • Charge #48: $263.40 at Soho House
  • Charge #49: $74.56 at Cecconi’s
  • Charge #65: $674.31 at Cecconi’s for Sheriff’s dinner for six

July 2010 Charges

  • Charge #28: $33 lunch at Bossa Nova for Fran Solomon
  • Charge #44: $37 lunch at Cafe d’Etoile for Fran Solomon and Dan Berkowitz
  • Charge #52: $34.92 lunch with Abbe Land
  • Charge #58: $46.10 at the Andaz hotel

August 2010 Charges

  • Charge #33: $50.90 lunch at Cecconi’s for Hernan Molina and Trevor Daley, $25 reimbursed to the City by Hernan Molina
  • Charge #45: $34.03 lunch with Steve Afriat to discuss PDC Development Agreement
  • Charge #54: $77.97 at Soho House
  • Charge #58: $100.61 at Soho House

October 2010

  • Charge #56: $77 for Fran Solomon and Trevor Daley (deputy to Senator Feinstein) to discuss midterm elections and West Hollywood Library
  • Charge #67: $30.73 for two people at  Cecconi’s
  • Charge #68: $77.81 for two people at BOA

November 2010 Charges

  • Charge #35: $44 at BOA for Fran Solomon
  • Charge #44: Approximately $2000 for Mont Blanc pens at $370 each
  • Charge #48: $92 at the Palm for Fran Solomon

December 2010 Charges

  • Charge #06: lunch for Fran Solomon and David Coddell at BOA
  • Charge #15: $796.60 for gift cards at Gelson’s
  • Charge #16: $796.60 for gift cards at Gelson’s
  • Charge #17: $266.88 for gift cards at Gelson’s

{ 2 trackbacks }

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Al Strasburg March 8, 2011 at 8:43 PM

I have no problem with recognition baubles for employee milestones, or with occasional lunches on the public dime, within reasonable cost structure, of course, and subject to conflict of interest checking, i.e., developers should probably not be wined and dined by public officials. The most pressing question, in my mind, is the apparent cozy relationship with a private club. Was the membership in the club, which apparently was not procured by way of public funds, a gift from the developer/owner of that private club?

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