South El Monte Councilwoman Blanca Figueroa at last week’s council meeting had to continually justify her travel expenses. According to Claudia Palma’s story, some council members are upset with how Figueroa is borrowing money from their travel budgets. In the past, Figueroa has justified these expenses by saying that the city reaps the benefits of these trips, and that as Mayor it is her responsibility to travel and represent the city, more so than the other council members.
Council looks into travel policy
By Claudia Palma, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 06/16/2008 09:28:36 PM PDT
SOUTH EL MONTE – The City Council has yet to decide how to keep travel expenses for individual members in check.
Recent actions from Mayor Blanca Figueroa, such as borrowing from other members’ travel budgets, prompted the council to look into the travel policy and credit card policies.
“If one person (goes over budget), it makes us all look bad,” said Councilman Hector Delgado.
At last week’s meeting, the council directed staff to look into provisions to prevent individual members from going over their travel budget and not using credit cards properly.
Previous city records, show the city was over its $60,000 travel budget by $8,000 in 2006-07. Of that, Figueroa used $20,811.
In February, council moved to reduce its budget to $40,000, giving each member $8,000 for 2007-08.
A request filed two weeks ago for recent records of the council’s travel budget remains outstanding.
Figueroa said when she recently borrowed the money from the travel budget of council members Angelica Garcia and Delgado for a trip to a sister city in Mexico, it was with the understanding that she will pay it back from her travel budget when they get into the next fiscal year, 2008-09.
“I will pay it back and that’s it,” said Figueroa, “I’m not breaking any laws.”
Councilmember Louie Agui aga said the city lost about $100 when the mayor’s trip to Mexico had to be cancelled because of illness.
“We need to be careful,” said Agui aga, “If you don’t have the money, you cannot go or you pay for it yourself.” Read more.