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City Credit Card Reports Reveal Big Expenditures During Staff Layoffs

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Records obtained by CBS13 show how Sacramento city employees have used taxpayers money for everything from rooms at posh hotels to Starbucks coffee and pizza.

The numbers go back five years and do not include statements from City Council and their staff and the mayor and his staff. Police won't release those as they continue their investigation into former city employee Lisa Serna Mayorga, who is accused of misusing a city credit card.

Still some of the findings are eye-opening: fancy hotels, high-priced coffee and a whole lot of pizza. The city of Sacramento has spent big bucks on what critics call luxury items.

Craig Powell from the watch-dog group Eye On Sacramento was appalled by some of our findings.

"This is very disconcerting and something we are going to have to take a close look at," he said. "My initial reaction is I feel almost ill."

City employees have taken a tour of America's hotels from coast to coast, spending a grand total $365,000 in hotel visits.

They've traveled to New Orleans, New York, Tampa, Denver and Dallas, to name a few. They've stayed at the Hyatt, the Fairmont and other upscale hotels.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - unless it shows up on a city credit card statement. Employees stayed at The Palms, Harrah's, MGM,and the Sahara.

And rooms have been booked within easy driving distance from home in Napa, Auburn, Stockton - even right here in Sacramento.

"The idea of city employees staying at five-star hotels at the taxpayers' expense is pretty nauseating," Powell said.

The credit card records cover a time span where City Hall has been slashing services and jobs - 1,400 city positions have been eliminated dating back to 2007 when there was no deficit to 2008, with a $58 million deficit, then years of $42, $43 and $39 million deficits

In total $182 million was cut while these credit card charges were being made: 48,000 transactions totaling $9.6 million.

City Manager John Shirey, who was hired this year, says the police review showed no criminal wrongdoing and all purchases were made for city business. Still, CBS13 asked Shirey if he thought this money was spent appropriately, maybe not criminally, but appropriately.

"Well, I suspect the problem is that too many purchases were made that should have been grouped as a large purchase and therefore we could have gotten a better deal from the vendors," Shirey said.

He expressed concern over missed discount rates, but Shirey showed no opposition to fancy restaurants and hotels.

The data is now facing scrutiny by union leaders.

"In politics, you follow the money," said Bill Camp with the Sacramento Central Labor Council. "That's what we've got to get the voters to do, follow the money and ask, 'Is this the way you want your money spent?' It's not their money. It's our money."

The charges go beyond hotels.

Sometimes everybody needs a little pick-me-up, and it seems city employees prefer Starbucks. In the past five years employees have used city credit cards to spend $9,240 there.

"Sorry folks, go to Duncan Donuts, or better yet, buy your own coffee," Powell said.

No matter how you slice it, the city also has spent a whole lot of money on pizza: a grand total of $88,840.

A good portion of the pizza was purchased through the parks department and given to children.

"In tough times you have to make tough choices, and I think the first choice here is to put money in public safety," Powell said.

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