► 07/02/09 letter to AG Jerry Brown re: legislative per diem abuse/fraud Print E-mail
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Letter to AG Jerry Brown re: Legislators involved in per diem abuses, outright fraud

The following letter details egregious abuses and/or outright fraud involving per diem payments paid to various state legislators that appear to be illegal.

 

July 7, 2009
Mr. Jerry Brown
California Attorney General
 
Re:      Legislative Per Diem Abuse/Fraud – Public Corruption
 
Dear Mr. Brown:
 
I would first apologize for the length of this letter and any undue editorializing; however, due to the serious nature of what I’ve discovered during the 1,500 hours I’ve spent reviewing over 1,000 pages of public records and thousands of pages of legislative journals, I thought it prudent to so act. This letter will be limited to the issue of Per Diem abuses/fraud and potential tax liabilities for personal use of state cars/fuel.  
 
Shortly I will provide you with documented evidence of (a) abuses/fraud involving vehicles provided to legislators, (b) tax avoidance/fraud re: personal use of state cars and (c) insurance scams of accidents while legislator engaged in personal business.
 
Per Diem Abuses and/or Outright Fraud
 
In your April 17, 2007 letter to Initiative Ms. Tony Melton (Ex. A), you state “…Members of the Legislature are eligible to receive a per diem payment to cover lodging, meals, and other expenses for each day of attendance at legislative sessions.”
 
On its web site, the legislature states, “Under current law, legislators are eligible to receive a per diem payment to cover lodging, meals, and other expenses for each day of attendance at legislative sessions, or related travel.” (See Legislative Analysts” Office at http:/www.lao.ca.gov.ballot/2009/1F_05_2009.aspx.)
 
The above citations clearly establish that if a legislator is granted “absence for the day” for illness, then he/she is not entitled to per diem. Put simply, attendance is not synonymous with absence! As I suspect you know, daily per diem is paid for lodging and meal expenses incurred in Sacramento. Obviously, if a legislator is in his home district in LA, San Diego, Orange County, Eureka and/or Riverside, then he/she is not expending any funds on meals or lodging in Sacramento. In many instances, a legislator is absent from Sacramento on a Thursday and doesn’t return until the following Monday or Tuesday. In some instances, the legislator is missing-in-action (MIA) for an entire month or longer, meaning no travel expense was incurred in Sacramento.
From my review of Senate/Assembly Journals as set forth in two text boxes below, members were “absent” 2,831 days for (a) personal illness, (b) family illness, (c) personal reasons, and/or (c) attending funerals. During this time span, they collected $435,476 in per diem payments. In addition, they hosed the public by collecting $1,293,898 in wages even though they never attended any legislative sessions.

                                                                                                     

 

Year
Body
Absent
Per Diem
Paid
Wages
Paid
Total
2008
Sen.
405 days
$68,850
$185,490
$254,340
2007
Sen.
404 days
$65,488
$185,032
$250,520
2006
Sen.
227 days
$34,958
$103,966
$138,924
2005
Sen.
202 days
$30,906
$ 92,516
$123,422
2004
Sen.
477 days
$65,826
$218,466
$284,292
 
 
1,715 days
$266,028
$785,470
$1,051,498
                                                  

 

Year
Body
Absent
Per Diem
Paid
Wages
Paid
Total
2008
Assy.
334 days
$56,780
$152,972
$209,752
2007
Assy.
198 days
$32,076
$ 90,684
$122,760
2006
Assy.
140 days
$19,320
$ 61,420
$ 80,740
2005
Assy.
314 days
$43,332
$143,812
$187,144
2004
Assy.
130 days
$17,940
$ 59,540
$ 77,480
 
 
1,116 days
$169,448
$508,428
$677,876

 

 
Below are but two individual examples of legislators receiving per diem they clearly were not entitled too. For more examples see Ex. B. I suspect that the total figures over the past twenty-five (25) years would easily total:
  •       19,000 = per diem days not entitled too
  •       $1.3 million = per diem paid
  •       $4.0 million = per diem wages paid
Ed Vincent – 25th Senate – Compton
  •       $56,184 = per diem while absent – 2007/2008 + 2004
  •       256 = days absent illness, family illness, family death
Mike Gordon – 53rd Assembly – El Segundo
 
  •       $13,938 = per diem paid while absent for illness
  •       101 = days absent for illness – 02/22/05 to 06/23/05
 
The thing the I truly find amazing (appalling in fact)) is that legislator’s are paid per diem of $170 a day for weekends and holidays despite the fact they are eating and lodging in their respective homes in LA, San Diego, San Francisco and/or Riverside. For the month of May they would collected (actually netted – no tax liability) $5,270. For a Californian that actually works for-a-living, he/she would have to gross about $7,000 a month to realize the same monthly income.  For 2008 (8-months), the average legislator collected (actually netted) $13,090 in per diem for weekends and holidays even though he/she never incurred any meal/lodging expenses in Sacramento. This obscene largess equates to a monthly cost to the public of $1,636 or just over $400 a week.
 
How in the world do these folks get away with this? It is quite disheartening to know that these so-called public servants would knowingly accept public funds to defer costs they never incurred. It appears they are ethically disadvantaged!
 
The Runners – Sharon and George – Lancaster/Palmdale
 
Attached is a breakdown (Ex. C) on potential taxes due to the IRS and California by the Runners. It also appears that the Runners have unlawfully collected per diem. These figures demonstrate they are “double-dipping” by collecting per diem from the State while at the same time billing their respective campaigns for meals, lodging and travel.
 
The Runners are not the only legislators that are for lack of a better term “Tax Scofflaws.” Shortly, I will provide you with evidence I believe will establish that there are many more legislators afflicted with “Runner-ism,” which is the total avoidance of reporting and paying taxes on income earned from the personal use of state-funded cars and fuel. I believe the gross amount will ultimately be in the millions of dollars.
 
It is indeed quite troubling to know that our legislators, many of whom are millionaires find it acceptable to (a) reduce state employee’s wages by 10-15%, (b) deny grandma the funds to purchase Alzheimer’s medication, (c) embark on an ill-advised crusade to slash funds for public education, and (d) force the closure of state parks. Have they no conscience? How in the world can they cheerfully continue to hose (pun intended) the public via the purchase of luxury vehicles of their choosing at the expense of hard working and overtaxed Californians is disturbing to say the least. Have they no shame?
 
In regards to the potential tax liability issue for personal use of state cars/fuel, I can assure you that my calculations (Ex. C) are well founded. In fact, in 2004 the Ohio State Auditor so found after I exposed the same type of conduct involving the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court and their publicly-funded luxury rides. Suffice it to say that the justices no longer have state-paid-for cars and gas charge cards. (ca: 2005).
 
I believe I now know why the legislature is unable to pass a budget within the statutory time constraints. My review of legislative travel habits and use (actual abuse) of state cars leads to but one conclusion, that being that our allegedly overworked and underappreciated legislators spend the lion’s share of their time driving state cars and/or traveling throughout the state and/or to various exotic foreign venues. If they would have only parked our luxury-rides and actually spent some personal time with their constituents (prospective voters), maybe, and I just say maybe, they would have been more successful in their reelection attempts.
 
Thanks for you time and attention to this serious matter and I look forward to your prompt response. If there is anything more that you may require of me, please do not hesitate to let me know. I stand at the ready to provide whatever assistance I can to assure that this conduct comes to a screeching halt! I trust that working together we can make a significant difference when it comes to public officials treating the taxpayer’s funds as though it was their own personal piggy bank.
 
Lastly, and without attempting to act as some kind of investigative guru, over the years, I have developed a highly successful methodology in reviewing public records that allows me to determine within one-minute or less “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.” I am hopeful that you will avail yourself of this self-taught expertise in order that working together we may minimize future financial burdens on our fellow Californians. And most importantly, if make such a request, be neither assured that I will not ask nor will I seek any per diem for my efforts!
 
 
_________________________
Dave Palmer
The Watchdawg
Folsom, CA 95630
 
PS: I would respectfully suggest that a “forensic audit” is in order!

 

 

 
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