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Water officials’ meals, travel top $170,000 (OCR)

Posted on 31 March 2014 by admin (0)
Michael Kitada, for the Register

Michael Kitada, for the Register

Orange County Register

They ordered a $50 bone-in aged rib-eye steak and crème brulee at The Falls Prime Steakhouse in Palm Springs. At a dinner for two, the Mesa Water District board members charged $144 to a district credit card.

It was the eve of last year’s Urban Water Institute conference, which featured such topics as “explaining to constituents why water rates are going up while water use is down.”

The dinner was a small portion of what top Mesa Water managers and directors spend on conferences, food and travel. Credit card statements and other expense documents obtained by the Register show that five directors and eight staff members rang up more than $170,000 in expenses over 2011 and 2012.

Spending ranged widely among the 13 – one individual spent less than $2,000, the general manager more than $30,000.

During the two years, they charged $45,500 for in-town meals, at least $36,000 at hotels and $21,000 in airfare.

All the directors rode in jets, three rode in chauffeured town cars and one rented a Cadillac sedan for $409. Four of them also dined at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and several at the Balboa Bay Club.

Four directors also collected $207 stipends for a “general manager meeting” on the same days they dined with the district’s chief executive at local restaurants, with the tab picked up by the district.

“The reason all this is happening is nobody is paying attention to them,” said Robert Stern, an attorney who helped write the state’s Political Reform Act. “Nobody’s watching.”

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