Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 4, 2018

No big deal

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

This EBX article may be the perfect cross section between Alameda and the national trend of bald facing lying in the face of demonstrable evidence.  I realize a lot of people — particularly those inclined to defend Trish Spencer for everything — are going to be fixated on the dollar amount.  But with anything it’s not the transgression that is typically the issue, it’s the cover up.   And this particular scenario is all the more puzzling because of the low dollar amount that could have easily been remedied.

The context:  Trish Spencer goes to these annual monthly dinners at the League of California Cities, the cost is $50 which is paid to the League by the cities who send representatives.  The City of Alameda cut two checks to the League (made out to the League) that were given to Trish Spencer to hand to the League when she went to dinner.  Somehow those checks did not get to the League but rather wound up in Trish Spencer’s bank account.

This all happened sometime last year and City staff discovered this when the League came collecting for that $100 for dinner reimbursement that it never received.  When confronted by City staff, Trish Spencer denied cashing the checks, which was sort of true because it was her husband who was caught on camera at the Park Street ATM depositing one check.  The other check was deposited in San Ramon.

So here’s where it gets messy.  Let’s use the best case scenario giving Trish Spencer the benefit of the doubt that depositing both of those checks were a complete mistake.  It’s entirely possible and probable that is the case.   Most people realizing that they made the mistake would just say “oopsie” and write a replacement check to reimburse the City. It’s like if you have a corporate credit card at your place of work and you inadvertently charge a personal expense on that card, you then just write a check to your company reimbursing the company for that expense.  No harm, no foul.

But that’s not how this went down.  Here’s how it unfolded, from the EBX:

But when city staff confronted Spencer about what happened to the checks, the mayor denied cashing them.

 

For her part, Mayor Spencer continues to deny depositing the checks. When first confronted about the missing $100, she said she has no plans to reimburse the city. She also has suggested that the whole thing was possibly a clerical error on the part of the city’s finance department.

Later, Spencer said that she might have made an error and that if city officials could prove to her that she and her husband had deposited the checks, she “would return the money.”

 

City finance department officials subsequently emailed Spencer, again asking to be reimbursed or, “to simplify the matter, [f]inance will deduct the amount from your expense reimbursement request.”

In response, Spencer wrote, “After sharing the documents with my bank, it is my understanding that I did not receive said monies, as I’ve stated before, and thus do not authorize you to deduct said funds from my expense reimbursement.”

“Even if she didn’t get the money, as she states, that’s not our problem and something she should take up with her bank. We have proof that her husband deposited a city check that supposed to go to the League,” [Liz] Warmerdam wrote to Edwin Gato, the city’s finances services manager. “As a result of her actions, the city had to pay twice. It is her responsibility to make it right, not ours.”

 

When I initially asked Spencer about the two checks and comments made by Rolleri, the mayor denied having any knowledge of the incident. Emails, however, clearly show that Spencer was in the loop as city staffers attempted to figure out what happened to the checks, including a Dec. 18 email from Adair to Spencer that included an attachment from her own financial institution.

Later, Spencer indicated that she couldn’t afford to reimburse the city for the $100, saying, “We don’t make a lot of money. One hundred dollars is a lot of money.”

In a follow-up interview, Spencer minimized the importance of the incident. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

The funny thing is that it wouldn’t have been a big deal had Trish Spencer simply paid back the City when they did exactly what she asked: prove that the checks had been deposited to the Spencer bank account.

Of course this tweet from the night Trish Spencer voted against the minimum wage ordinance highlights the inherent problem with Trish Spencer, the public policy maker.

15 Comments

  1. Breaking News! City staff”confronts” mayor on missing $100 check! Wow!

    Here’s a better minimum wage connection….Do you realize if council members and our mayor were paid “minimum wage” for the hours they put in it would quadruple their salaries?

    Comment by Nowyouknow — October 4, 2018 @ 6:41 am

    • Do you often deposit checks made out to other entities and people into your personal bank account? And it was actually two separate $50 checks. If we’re striving for accuracy here.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 4, 2018 @ 7:56 am

  2. The EBX piece indicates this has been percolating for months. I can’t be the only one wondering why the hell it hasn’t been public until now. Though the dollar amount is trivial, the behavior is abhorrent and should have been disclosed much sooner.

    Comment by dave — October 4, 2018 @ 6:58 am

    • What would be interesting if the timeline of this investigation were cross referenced to timeline of closed session meetings discussing the City Manager’s performance. Were the Mayor and City Manager at odds over how to resolve this matter?

      Comment by Mike McMahon — October 4, 2018 @ 7:48 am

      • According to the EBX piece the email by Warmerdam referenced above came at the conclusion of the other independent investigation.

        Comment by Lauren Do — October 4, 2018 @ 7:55 am

    • Mayor Spencer, an explanation?

      Comment by MP — October 4, 2018 @ 10:02 am

      • good luck with that.

        Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — October 4, 2018 @ 12:00 pm

        • Thank you.

          Yes, we all know from recent experience that explanations are (a) a tough ask in this neck of the woods, and even if one gets an answer, (b) one may still be left with a head scratcher.

          For example:

          (a) “Rob Bonta “declined to be interviewed in connection with this investigation….Assemblyman Bonta, through his representative would only consider an interview after reviewing written questions. Five subject areas for questions were thereafter provided to the Assemblyman, along with preliminary questions. The Assemblyman’s office did not respond to subsequent inquiries.” (Jenkins Report p.45).

          (b) “The evidence of Councilmember Oddie’s enthusiasm for Weaver’s appointment casts doubt on the sincerity of his defense that he was primarily interested in the manner in which Keimach was conducting the Fire Chief recruitment as an aspect of her performance evaluation.” (Jenkins Report Page 11)

          Comment by MP — October 4, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

        • Look at the big shiny thing over there, not this particular issue right here!

          Comment by Lauren Do — October 4, 2018 @ 3:09 pm

        • I am wrong to lament a lack of enthusiasm for scrutiny amongst our electeds whether it be into $100 matters or $1Million messes, or is it too soon for that?

          Comment by MP — October 4, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

    • Obviously, Dianne Feinstein was controlling its release.

      Comment by vigi — October 5, 2018 @ 9:23 am

  3. Mayor Spencer’s actions can only be defined as the: “Dine-and-Dash Mayor”.

    Comment by Gerard L. — October 5, 2018 @ 10:09 am

  4. It is a big deal. The City should turn this over to a collection agency.

    Comment by dc — October 6, 2018 @ 8:24 am

  5. She has had enough time and opportunities to pay back the money. This is no longer a mistake. This is theft. Perhaps she should just be charged criminally. That would probably lead to a speedy resolution.

    Comment by JohnB — October 6, 2018 @ 9:32 am

  6. One interesting thing I learned from this, outside of how the mayor handled the issue, is that banks don’t really care who checks are made out to or if they are endorsed if the check is deposited at an ATM. The article states that the City’s bank was only able to recover the funds from one of the checks. Since they were clearly deposited into a different account than they were made out to both should have been easy to recover under fraud provisions.

    Comment by NavyVet — October 9, 2018 @ 3:04 pm


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