EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: WeHo resident Ed Buck, who filed the public records act request, says $13,788 was just a FRACTION of the unethical charges he found in the pile of city credit-card receipts. He estimates that, once properly combed, luxurious spending will reach $100,000 for 2010 ALONE. All the gory details after the jump.
When one works for one's people on a six-figure salary, there's really nothing trashier than swiping the company card at unnecessarily swanky restaurants and splurging on office-supply stupidities like $370 Mont Blanc pens.
It appears no one warned the West Hollywood city deputies (already at $100,000-plus per year) about this potentially embarrassing habit in 2010:
City Council Candidate Scott Schmidt — a gay Republican with free-thinking stances on all WeHo's messy parts — is totally juiced on this election, the most kinetic in years. We're glad for that, because months of bugging the WeHo city clerk yielded a hilarious, albeit incomplete, credit-card bill allegedly belonging to the city deputies, otherwise known as the councilmembers' glorified personal assistants.
January 2010 Billing Cycle
Charge #69: $99.41 for lunch with Steve Afriat on 12/29
Charge #82: $152.82 for lunch for 9 people at Hugos
Charge #83: $197.92 at Cecconi's
Charge #48: $75.00 for lunch for 2 at BOA
Charge #54: $33.47 at Le Petit Bistro by Fran Solomon
Charge #59: $90.83 at Cecconi's
Charge #60: $50.53 lunch with Richard Weintraub at Basix
Charge #63: $96.22 at Cecconi's
Charge #64: $53.96 at Cecconi's
Charge #21: $101 at BOA by Fran Solomon
Charge #24: $91 at Cecconi's by Fran Solomon
April 2010 Billing Cycle
Charge #66: $109.75 for lunch at Soho House
Charge #67: $195.26 for lunch at Soho House
Charge #68: $142.68 at Soho House
Charge #75: $159.90 at Madeo
Charge #77: $114.58 at Madeo
Charge #78: $98.78 at Soho House
Charge #81: $219.28 at Soho House
Charge #82: $308.40 at Soho House
May 2010 Billing Cycle
Charge #28: $93 at Cecconi's by Fran Solomon
Charge #32: $50 at Canter's Deli by Fran Solomon
Charge #44: $52 at Food Lab by Fran Solomon
Charge #46: $131.70 at Soho House
Charge #46: $144.92 at Cecconi's
Charge #48: $263.40 at Soho House
Charge #49: $74.56 at Cecconi's
Charge #65: $674.31 at Cecconi's for Sheriff's dinner for six
July 2010 Charges
Charge #28: $33 lunch at Bossa Nova for Fran Solomon
Charge #44: $37 lunch at Cafe d'Etoile for Fran Solomon and Dan Berkowitz
Charge #52: $34.92 lunch with Abbe Land
Charge #58: $46.10 at the Andaz hotel
August 2010 Charges
Charge #33: $50.90 lunch at Cecconi's for Hernan Molina and Trevor Daley, $25 reimbursed to the City by Hernan Molina
Charge #45: $34.03 lunch with Steve Afriat to discuss PDC Development Agreement
Charge #54: $77.97 at Soho House
Charge #58: $100.61 at Soho House
Charge #56: $77 for Fran Solomon and Trevor Daley (deputy to Senator Feinstein) to discuss midterm elections and West Hollywood Library
Charge #67: $30.73 for two people at Cecconi's
Charge #68: $77.81 for two people at BOA
November 2010 Charges
Charge #35: $44 at BOA for Fran Solomon
Charge #44: Approximately $2000 for Mont Blanc pens at $370 each
Charge #48: $92 at the Palm for Fran Solomon
December 2010 Charges
Charge #06: lunch for Fran Solomon and David Coddell at BOA
Charge #15: $796.60 for gift cards at Gelson's
Charge #16: $796.60 for gift cards at Gelson's
Charge #17: $266.88 for gift cards at Gelson's
Fine taste for a pack of entry-level city bees, no? SoHo House, which seems to be their fave place to graze by far, gets a “splurge” $$$$ rating on Yelp, while runner-up Cecconi's gets a “spendy” $$$.
Great Recession fares? We think not.
We're waiting on calls back from Mayor John Heilman's deputy Fran Solomon (who's out at lunch, teehee) and City Clerk Tom West, to get a better explanation of who the overworked card belongs to, and if Schmidt is correct in saying:
Although the City demand register is supposed to show expenses encumbered by the City of West Hollywood, there are secretive charges itemized to Bank of America. We don't know who made them, we don't know what they were for, and we don't know why the charges were made, but we do know who paid for them-you and me.
After two months of public records requests, the charges have been revealed but unfortunately, the City Clerk still won't give out copies of the receipts, but here are a few examples:
This is just a few months worth of data from a public records request-data that will probably not be released to the public until after the election.
So check back. And remember: This, from a small-town government who refused to hold an election when one city councilmember died, on the grounds that it'd be too expensive, then appointed inexperienced puppet Lindsey Horvath instead.
Update: Turns out it wasn't actually Schmidt who filed the request for city credit-card receipts. It was Ed Buck, WeHo resident and activist responsible for fluffier stuff like the city's cat declawing ban.
But what he found at City Hall yesterday was the opposite of fluff: It's quite possibly the worst political scandal in West Hollywood history.
Buck says he and another WeHo insider did indeed file a public-records request back in January, though City Clerk Tom West denies he received it (the request may have gone straight to WeHo records keeper Carmen Nunnally).
But this last Monday, upon receiving a call from Buck, West says he told the scandal-seeker that “it would be easier” if he just came in, picked out the documents he wanted and had them photocopied.
So that's what Buck did. And boy, did he hit a jackpot.
“People use the cards for different things,” says City Clerk West, his voice noticeably resigned this afternoon. West adds that he'd “have to investigate if there was a written policy” against using the cards for expensive dinners, and says he “thought there was only one card that staff can use.”
In fact, says Buck, there are two cards — making for a leaning tower of receipt after receipt, with handwritten notes on the back detailing who was there and how the money was spent.
After four hours of two people “gleaning through thousands of pages of receipts,” Buck guesstimates about one-half of the receipts were spent on frivolous non-city-necessities.
And he didn't even get past 2010.
Buck calls this the “worst-kept secret at City Hall.” Then how has it been kept so long? He claims ex-WeHo staffers “told us where to dig.”
Mayor Heilman's assistant, Fran Solomon, who still hasn't called us back, is one of the card holders, detectable by her handwriting. But there's one other spender — apparently with a membership at the exclusive, expensive SoHo House — who's never identified by name.
From what Buck has observed up to now, none of the other city deputies are guilty of taxpayer theft. Just Solomon and the other mystery spender.
He says the only reason he stopped digging for more is that “it got to be overwhelming at some point — it was so pervasive. … But it's going to be WAY more than [$13,788]. It's going to approach $100,000 or more, just for 2010.”
In the supporting documents that WeHo City Hall is finally turning over to Buck today — 500 pages so far — he's reading notes that “show that Fran Solomon took this person to lunch, and discussed this and this.” These persons include big lobbyists and developers like Steve Afriat and Richard Weintraub, whose lunches you've been paying for, along with their sweetheart city deals. Yes, that means you.
Some receipts are more ambiguous. They show just a dollar amount, with no jotted explanation. And some numbered entries in the records are missing.
Can this shit get any sketchier?
On one account, Solomon apparently scribbled down that she took Trevor Daley, a staffer to State Senator Dianne Feinstein, out for $77 to “discuss the post-midterm elections.” Another $700 dinner treated everyone in attendance to the “wild salmon” at $75 a plate.
In City Council candidate Scott Schmidt's report (the one we published above), “we only highlighted [receipts] we found strictly egregious,” says Buck. “Those were the ones that jumped out. … Apparently, this has been going on for years.”
We'll be reviewing the documents ourselves and hopefully publishing as many as possible, as well as giving the L.A. County Auditor-Controller a good talking to, so stay tuned.
And most importantly, remember to vote on March 8. We hope these splurges, allowed to go unchecked for lord-knows-how-long by City Council incumbent John Heilman, will help show you the way.
Originally posted at 12:30 p.m.