City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

October 19, 2012
Credit card use for Sacramento City Council revealed

Members of the City Council and their employees charged $406,945 on their city-issued credit cards between July 2008 and July 2012. But the activity varies widely office to office and, in some cases, the city was reimbursed for large travel charges.

For a list of the charges, click here: CC-Mayor-Cards.xlsx

Let's start with Councilman Steve Cohn's office. Records show his chief of staff, Sue Brown, made $78,321 in charges with her card - the most of anyone else in the council and mayor offices. However, roughly $16,000 of those charges were reimbursed for travel charges that Cohn made for trips.

Now, it was still public dollars paying for those trips; Cohn's office was reimbursed by Regional Transit and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA).

Cohn said a large portion of the remaining charges helped put on his annual Pops in the Park series. Those musical events, he said, end up making money that is put back into city parks upkeep.

"If they're all legitimate expenditures, then what are you gaining by having someone pay through another means and getting reimbursed?" Cohn said. "That takes up more time and administrative expense."

Cohn, who chairs the City Council's audit committee, said he is "pretty satisfied" with the results of various examinations that have found just two cases of alleged misuse of credit cards.

Both of those cases are now the focus of police department investigations.

As we reported today, former chief service officer Keith Hart - an appointee of Mayor Kevin Johnson - is the subject of a police inquiry into his credit card use. That probe is in addition to the criminal investigation of Lisa Serna-Mayorga, a former mayoral aide who resigned in July after it was revealed she allegedly used her card for personal uses.

Police said Thursday no other potential criminal activity was found with credit card use in the mayor and City Council offices.

It appears many of the charges went to fund council members' pet projects.

For example, Matthew Bryant, the district director for Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell, spent a combined $34,000 over a four-year period on the office's Santa Sam event. Most of the money purchased gifts that were given to elementary school students.

The office with the smallest credit card bill over the years was Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy's. Her administrative aide and daughter, Tyson Sheedy, used the office's credit card a total of six times - for a grand total of $266.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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