From September 28 through October 9, 2012, then Mayor Don Schweitzer, MPT Brett Murdock and City Manager Tim O’Donnell took a vacation together to Anseong, South Korea and Hanno, Japan and stuck Brea taxpayers with the bill.
Aren’t those our Sister Cities? Yeah, so what?
Under the ruse that the number of official duties outstripped the Mayor’s ability to respond, Schweitzer convinced Murdock and O’Donnell that they should come along to help pick up the slack. Really? I’ll bet that took a lot of arm twisting.
Another thought, did O’Donnell charge his time to the taxpayers on this trip anticipating that Measure T, which disallowed payment for work done outside the country, was likely to pass and this was his last chance to sock it to the taxpayers before Measure T took effect?
Let’s back up and look at the facts.
Brea Matters has discussed this twice, on September 20 and November 6 – please take the time to read these again to put what follows in proper context.
The invitation, from the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folkarts (CIOFF), could have easily been turned down without international incident by simply replying, “While we would be honored to join you, we are not in a position to budget for a non-commercial cultural event.”
The CIOFF, according to their own mission statement, purposefully focuses on cultural activities and as an NGO (non-government organization), does not get involved with developing commercial opportunities. The fact that O’Donnell originally characterized the junket as one exploring commercial connections between Anseong and Brea is completely bogus.
At no time has there been acceptable explanation of this junket’s benefit to Brea sufficient to consider it justified in any way. Particularly the side trip to Hanno, Japan. It was an abuse of power and authority using public funds without public approval to pay for a vacation.
So, what did this cost us?
The product of a difficult and protracted public inquiry, this Expense Report accounts for lodging, airfare, ground transportation and meals. It also reports how O’Donnell’s time off was allocated.
All three happy travelers cost the city about $3,115.00 each for reimbursed expenses. I believe that’s more than Movies In The Park or our summer concert series costs. One person’s expenses are at least double the cost of “Gotta Have Art” which annually benefitted Brea kids all across the city and produced the amazing banners you see hanging down at the Community Center. A program, by the way, that has been cut.
O’Donnell adds insult to injury.
If that nine grand was wasted, wait until you hear what’s next. Tim O’Donnell charged off three days as “regular paid work days” and four days as “paid administrative leave.”
Are you kidding me? I would love to see a detailed itinerary for these days that justified bilking the city for the expense.
Based on the unconscionably enormous salary we pay O’Donnell, these expenses are roughly equal to the travel expenses of all three combined! Yeah, I believe it comes to almost another nine grand!
Hey, I’m a reasonable guy. If O’Donnell wanted to charge off his time against “paid vacation” I would have no problem with reducing his accrued vacation. If he earned it, it’s his. But don’t stick taxpayers with this… it’s like double jeopardy.
It’s grossly unfair, and seems equally unethical, to make us pay you now and then pay you again when you’re terminated. You read that right Tim, terminated.
There is a simple answer.
In the court of public opinion, you’re all guilty as charged. Unfortunately it requires an act of contrition on your part to bring this to a positive conclusion.
Here’s what you should do… pay it back. All of it. All three of you.
It was unethical. It was unapproved. It was without excuse. At least five former Mayor’s have clearly expressed that they feel the same way. Three shared their opinions during Matters From The Audience and they were basically ignored.
Don, Brett, Tim… write a check to reimburse the city, and Tim, reclassify your time in Anseong and Hanno as “Paid Vacation” and be done with it.
I would much rather see the three of you step up and do the honorable, the honest thing… for once. Then put a review of travel budgets on the agenda and ask folks what they think they ought to be.
While we’re at it, how about taking a hard look at our League of Cities memberships and participation in the Energy Coalition too. Many of us are still trying to figure out what sort of benefits we get from these and similar groups.
Finally gents, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” so save yourself the trouble of wagging the dog on this one… it’s far too late for damage control now.