If Bob Filner Misused Public Funds Career OverPosted: August 13, 2013
(Updated 8/18/2013: As reported in the LA Times, Filner could get removed from office for using the City’s credit card for personal expenses under the never been used before section 108 of the San Diego City Charter. It states, “every city officer who willfully approves or allows an unauthorized payment from the city treasury is subject to removal from office.” Yet, there is no set procedure for removal. The City Council and a judge would likely be required to remove Filner. The misuse of public funds is a felony. Why not let the San Diego District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office (if DA Dumanis is recused) arrest and prosecute Filner for the alleged misuse of public funds, just like the DA did in 1986 to Filner’s predecessor (I kid you not) former Councilman Uvaldo Martinez who resigned pursuant to a plea bargain over his misuse of $1800 in city funds. Seriously, I’m not making this up. My bet, Bob will resign, too, when jail is the alternative. Besides, it’s cheaper than a 30 million dollar voter recall or enduring the civil process of testing out a 1931 section of the City Charter.)
Mayor Bob Filner is now being scrutinized for alleged “improper” expenses on his January to May 2013 Mayor’s (taxpayer) credit card statements including frequent hotel charges and $3000 paid to a reputation management firm.
Misuse of public funds?
If Filner misused public funds, game over. Filner faces up to 4 years in prison and can be barred from holding public office.
Having handled many sexual harassment cases and prosecuted many domestic violence cases, I am not surprised to learn of possible financial abuse allegations. Financial abuse commonly occurs by perpetrators of sexual abuse and harassment. When misused, money, just like sex, is just another way perpetrators control others and abuse their power.
Follow the money.
It may just reveal the misuse of public funds.
As stated by the California Attorney General,
“Public funds may not be used for personal purposes.
The starting point for any analysis concerning the misuse of public funds begins with the principle that public funds must be expended for an authorized public purpose. An expenditure is made for a public purpose when its purpose is to benefit the public interest rather than private individuals or private purposes.
Once a public purpose is established, the expenditure must still be authorized. A public official possesses only those powers that are conferred by law, either expressly or impliedly.
The California Constitution and a variety of state statutes make it clear that public funds may not be expended for purposes that are primarily personal. Such expenditures are neither for a public purpose nor are they authorized.
The prohibition against using public funds for personal purposes does not mean that no personal benefit may result from an expenditure of public funds.
For example, the payment of a public employee’s salary confers a personal benefit on the employee, but it is an appropriate expenditure of public funds because it is procuring the services of the employee for public purposes.
The misuse of public funds occurs when the personal benefit conferred by a public expenditure is not merely incidental. The term “public funds” is not limited to money, but includes anything of value belonging to a public agency such as equipment, supplies, compensated staff time, and use of telephones, computers, and fax machines and other equipment and resources.
Examples of Misuse of Public Funds
1.In People v. Dillon, a city commissioner used official government discounts to purchase items for himself and others. This was a misuse of public funds, even though those receiving the discount paid for the items with personal funds.
2.In People v. Sperl, a county marshal furnished a deputy marshal and a county vehicle to transport a political candidate, his staff and family.
3.In People v. Battin, a county supervisor used his county compensated staff to work on his political campaign for Lieutenant Governor.
4.In People v. Harby, a city official used a city car, entrusted to him for use in connection with official business, to take a pleasure trip from Los Angeles to Great Falls, Montana and back.
Violations of the laws prohibiting misuse of public funds may subject the violator to criminal and civil sanctions.
These penalties may include imprisonment for up to four years and a bar from holding office.” (See California Attorney General’s website, Misuse of Public Funds)
If Filner’s alleged improper credit card expenses were for personal use, he may face felony charges and, if found guilty, it will likely be the end of Filner’s political career.
Simply my opinion, what say you?
Read Huffington Post story on Filner’s questionable expenses.
Could Filner get arrested for assault & battery? Read my post Filner arrest or deal?.
Legal Analyst Michele Hagan on Los Angeles KVI talk station.