Saturday, February 28, 2009

Welfare for the rich: top California officials bill taxpayers for nonessential travel

Report: Top Schwarzenegger staff traveled on taxpayer's dime
Channel 6, San Diego
Feb. 28, 2009

SACRAMENTO (AP) - A news report says in the midst of a budget crisis, top officials in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration charged taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for airfare, hotels and meals despite a ban on nonessential travel.

The Los Angeles Times says 10 high-ranking staff members who live in Southern California billed the state for routine trips from their homes to Sacramento.

And Carrie Lopez, the director of the state Department of Consumer Affairs, billed the state for transportation costs to attend a Justin Timberlake concert with her daughter. Lopez said the transportation cost was for a meeting with an energy company executive but the company denies it.

The Times says expense reports and calendars show many of the expenses submitted by top staff were incurred after the governor issued an executive order a year ago requiring state agencies to reduce travel costs because of the budget crisis.

The governor's office says the travel expenses will be reviewed.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Greg Cox defends grants to daughter's employer, Elite Racing Foundation

Cox defends grants to daughter's employer, Elite Racing Foundation

By Eleanor Yang Su
San Diego Union Tribune
February 6, 2009

County Supervisor Greg Cox is defending his decision to award grants that top $100,000 to the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon while not disclosing that his daughter works for the company that stages the event.

Cox, whose district encompasses much of the marathon route through downtown San Diego, Hillcrest and Mission Bay, helped provide a $12,500 community enhancement grant this year to the Elite Racing Foundation for Children, Education and Medical Research.

He has recommended similar amounts since 1999 for the charity, which co-hosts the marathon with the privately held Elite Racing Inc. Cox also received $750 in campaign contributions from Elite executives in 2007, when he was running for re-election.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Sunday that Elite Racing Inc. has been profiting from the marathon while its affiliated nonprofit has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public subsidies and grants.

Elizabeth Cox has worked at Elite Racing Inc. since August 2002, and is responsible for development and community relations.

Supervisor Cox said he started supporting the marathon a decade ago because it helps boost the local economy and community involvement.

“I wasn't going to penalize the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon because of the fact that my daughter works there,” he said. “Nor was I going to reward them. . . . My decision has been to hold them to the same dollar amount for the past five or six years.”

Cox did not disclose his relationship when voting on the grant awards “because there was no legal reason to,” said Luis Monteagudo, an aide to Cox. Only the financial interests of dependent children and spouses must be disclosed, Assistant County Counsel Tom Montgomery said.

Bob Stern, a government ethics expert, said Cox should have recused himself and allowed other supervisors to recommend and vote on the grant...


Race organizers hire independent auditor
By Eleanor Yang Su

Background: The for-profit Elite Racing Inc., organizer of the Rock 'n'Roll Marathon, has an affiliated foundation that collected more than $600,000 in public subsidies and grants, according to city and county records analyzed by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

What's changing: Elite Racing's parent company has hired an auditor to look into finances. It has also withdrawn an application for city tourism promotion funds for next year's marathon.

The future: The audit is expected to be completed within three weeks.

...Elite Racing was acquired 13 months ago by a private equity firm, Dickey said, and the new management was unaware that the grants and subsidies were flowing in through the Elite Racing Foundation for Children, Education and Medical Research.

In naming the foundation as a co-host for the event, Elite benefited from a city policy that allows nonprofits to pay about half the cost for police services used race day. Those subsidies have been worth $40,000 to $45,000 a year. County supervisors also gave grants of about $20,000 annually to stage the marathon.

During the past year, the company has reported profits ranging from nothing to $275,000 in its applications to the city and county to stage the event and collect community grants...

Board members at the San Diego Tourism Promotion Corp., the nonprofit entity that will grant an estimated $25 million in hotel fee revenue to promote tourism this year, had mixed reactions about the withdrawn application.


Marathon Organizer Rescinds Application For Tourism Funds
Metro Networks Communications

The organizer of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon has rescinded an application for 375-thousand dollars in city tourism/promotion funds. It has also announced it's hired an outside auditor to investigate questionable payouts associated with an affiliated charity. The actions come after it was discovered Elite Racing Inc. profited from the race while its charity foundation acted as a co-host for the race. The charity has also received over 600-thousand dollars in city subsidies and county grants over the race's eleven-year history.