South El Monte Mayor defends spending habits

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.

  • Blanca M. Figueroa Mayor South El Monte

    Dear Tribune just to clarify. Our travel budget for June 2007 to July 2008 started at $12,000. We cut it down to $8,000. All the meetings and conferences were programed in for my budget at that time. When time came to attend I was in a deficit. Mr.Delgado and Ms. Garcia were kind enough to help me out. I would only borrow under the condition that I would replace it back. We are going to deal with this issue at our budget meetings. It is a budget item of great concern to me personally. It will be delt with in an open meeting and posted for all. Unfortunetly in order to provide mixed used projects, housing, senior apartments and other needs that our residents areasking us for, we have to attend conferences and meetings. It cost money. They set the place and cost. Even for the Citys Bonds that we so desperately needed cost took place. In order to help our on going projects time, travel and money was approved and used. We, as a rapidly growing and prosperious community have done right by the residents of South El Monte. Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Delgado, Councilmembers Aguinaga, Garcia and Gonzales we, as a united city council have achieved our goals and asperations. All for the betterment of our city and the people that we represent. We just finished our first city budget meeting last night. Thanks to Mr. Bass our city Finance Director,City Manager Ybarra, Asst. City Manager Vasquez and our department heads we have a sound fiscal budget. Our reserve is at $2.4 million in our general fund and our Operating budget
    is currently at $10.5 million dollars as of July 2007 to June 2008. We are well aware of Sacramento and the governors cuts. They are monitored on a weekly bases. Making sure that none of our operating money is raided. We will keep going forward to meet the growth and opportunity that South El Monte has to offer. Should anyone wish to reach me feel free to cal city hal at 626/252-9201. I have an open door policy for all to need to contact the mayor.
    Respectfully, Blanca M. Figueroa
    Mayor City of South El Monte

  • Resident

    Thanks for your honesty. what a difference from el monte where you got people like pat wallach voting to go with the county for fire so her dumb son could get in through the back door.

  • El Monte Resident

    Pat Wallach’s son has been a firefighter for many years. His dedication is one to be admired. He is not part of the problem. He simply helps maintain our citys safety like all firefighters. We are thankful to him and the station he works at. He dosen’t need anyones help in getting in. He is his own man, and a very smart man at that.

    Good job Mayor Figueroa. Too bad you can’t be our mayor in El Monte. Good knows we need someone other than the guy we are stuck with.

  • Resident

    “A rapidly growing and prosperous community” ? Oh please. Be careful what you wish for El Monte residents! P.S. prosperous is the correct spelling for the word. Geez

  • South El Monte Long Time Resident

    South El Monte has become a great city with much potential. Just drive around and see for yourself.
    No one can tell me or the residents of South El Monte, any different. You sound like an ex-councilmember, crying over spilled milk. You missed the boat on this one…totally. Thanks to Mayor Figueroa, Concilmembers Garcia, Gonzalez, Aguiniga and Deldado they have all made this a rapidly growing city. We will have more jobs and tax money that will come into the city. That has never been done before at all. This city has jump statred itself within the last five years. It did not happen by itself. Thanks to our five smart, dynamic elected Mayor and Councilmembers. Here’s to you 5.