Taxpayers Paid Bill for Caltrans Manager’s 2 Year Commute from San Diego to Sacramento
According to an audit release in May, the state paid for a Caltrans manager to commute from San Diego to Sacramento for work for two years. The audit states that the manager was reimbursed around $30,000 for airfare and car rentals, plus an additional $12,000 for meals, lodging and other costs from 2016 through 2018. The audit reveals that the manager was promoted in February 2016 from her San Diego office to a temporary assignment in Sacramento, so she began commuting regularly from San Diego. Caltrans then made the position permanent in September and the manager continued to commute from San Diego to Sacramento. The audit stated the following regarding the matter,
Evidence indicates the manager should have known that her headquarters was Sacramento and that she was not entitled to the travel reimbursements. This shift in the manager’s travel pattern appears to have been for her benefit and did not serve the state’s interests
Employees are reimbursed when they spend money on food and lodging over 50 miles from their headquarters, and the state directly pays vendors for approved airline, train and car travel. The audit revealed that the manager submitted her expenses to a San Diego-based supervisor, who approved them, even after she started reporting to a division chief in Sacramento. The Sacramento division chief told auditors that she did not know about the manager’s reimbursements for the long commute until the accounting division flagged the payments in the summer of 2017. Instead of recouping the payments and stopping Caltrans from paying for the manager’s travel to Sacramento, the division chief told the manager do most of her work from San Diego even though her staff was in Sacramento. For some reason, in December 2017, someone at Caltrans retroactively changed the manager’s headquarters to San Diego from Sacramento without the division chief’s knowledge.
According to the audit, the manager ended up retiring in March 2018. The audit suggests that Caltrans add the report to the former manager’s personnel file and investigate whether the commute payments should have been taxed as fringe benefits. It also suggests that Caltrans take corrective action against the former San Diego official who approved the payments and increase training on travel expenses. The Caltrans spending was actually part of an audit of several state agencies in the second half of last year. These investigations uncovered around $427,000 in inappropriate expenditures. We will have to wait and see if the commuting manager will have to repay what was given to her.