Three members of the Orange County Transportation Authority board conducted a test run of sorts of a new agency expense account policy when they traveled to New York in June for wine-and-dine meetings with investment and bond rating firms.
In previous years whenever board members traveled, they filed expense reports that itemized meals and other items they wanted reimbursed. Under the board’s new policy, members may instead accept a flat-rate reimbursement at whatever rate the Internal Revenue Service allows.
Most meals and entertainment, except breakfast, are paid for by the investment and rating firms. Officials who accept them must report the food, Broadway show and other entertainment as gifts on their mandatory conflict-of-interest forms next year.
Each of the three OCTA board members handled the meals and entertainment issue differently.
As he has in previous years, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Campbell repaid each of the sponsors for lunches and dinners. So when he, his wife and son dined at Il Mulino on June 22 with the OCTA delegation, he sent host J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. a check for $245.76 to cover the cost of the three dinners.
He also wrote checks for $19.76 to Fitch Ratings Ltd. for lunch on June 22; for $10.09 to J.P. Morgan for lunch June 23; for $140.06 to Merrill Lynch & Co. for dinner at Plataforma Churrascaria on June 23; and for $60 to Goldman Sachs & Co. for lunch on June 24.
In turn, OCTA paid Campbell the IRS rate of $289.25 to cover all his meal expenses for the trip, according to agency records.
Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche said she also reimbursed the vendors for their expenses but didn’t seek the IRS expense rate for herself. “The Cavecche household pays for my meals on business in New York City,” she said.
Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante opted for the third alternative. He allowed the hosts to pay for his meals and entertainment and said he will report the gifts on state-required conflict-of-interest forms next year.
— TRACY WOOD