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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Vanguard Report: Examining Reimbursements to Davis City Council

Councilmember Don Saylor spends more city money than the rest of his colleagues combined

The City is allowed to reimburse City Councilmembers for expenses incurred while on official duty to the city. Often this takes the form of travel expenses to conferences while a council member is representing the city. AB 1234 at the state level governs much of this.

The Vanguard made a public records act request for the city to disclose all reimbursements to Davis City Councilmembers for 2004 until the present. The findings here are interesting, but please do not read too much into them.

Nevertheless, the findings here are more interesting than one might first think.

The council over that four and a half year period has spent a grand total of $10,406.92 combined between the five members. Clearly this is neither a large city expense nor is there much to suggest a problem.

However, one councilmember spent more than the other four combined and nearly four times more than the next closest councilmember. That was Councilmember Don Saylor.

The vast majority of those expenditures are for attending league of California City Meetings. In fact, that is the majority of everyone's expenditures.

However there are a few of Councilmember Saylor's non-travel expenditures:
  • In 2004, $378 for Reimbursement for Comcast Interviews
  • In 2005, $100 for DHS Jazz Group Fee
  • In 2005, $150 for Music for Oeste Manor
  • In 2007, roughly $150 for three expenditures for T-Shirts with the City Logo
These are mostly small amounts, although the reimbursement for Comcast Interviews is somewhat interesting.

The other interesting finding was the spending of Councilmember Lamar Heystek. Remember Councilmember Heystek was elected in 2006, and so his figures are a two-year total and yet, he is just behind Mayor Asmundson with just over $1500 in expenditures.

If you look down his list, you see a number of payments for what appears to be his internet service--either DSL or later on, Comcast. I inquired at the city and they informed me that paying for internet is one of the few perks provided to city council members, however, only Lamar Heystek had taken advantage of that offer. And it makes sense given his personal financial situation.

I asked Councilmember Heystek about it on the record.
"Thanks for asking. I'm glad you're looking into councilmembers' expenses. The Internet is the main way I connect with City staff and constituents. I also use my personal cell phone (not my City-issued Blackberry); however, the City does not cover any of my telephone costs."
The expenditures for internet run roughly at $42 per month for a total of about $900.

Again, we are talking about a total $10,406.92 so it is difficult to draw much in the way of conclusion other than perhaps one councilmember has traveled much more on public expense than the other four combined. I am not sure there is much to be concerned about (not everything we report on has to be a major scandal); however, I did find it interesting to look at.

The Vanguard has been reporting on public records this week relating to expenditures and fiscal policy, stay tuned to future installments.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting