Council updates policy for worker use of credit cards

City Hall

Hollister council members Tuesday approved changes to the city’s policy for employee use of credit cards following a Free Lance inquiry into the matter just two weeks ago, but none of the officials questioned how nearly $800,000 was charged on the Cal Cards last fiscal year.
Council members Tuesday approved the overhaul to a city policy governing who can access the credit cards and how they’re used. It came after a release of public records to the Free Lance showing that Hollister was issuing 105 Cal Cards—from a workforce of 142 total employees—with nearly $800,000 in expenditures on those cards made in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The City of Hollister’s expenses on such charges totaled $794,681 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to records obtained by the Free Lance.
The city released the information—along with a list of employees receiving the Cal Cards and expense data for the five council members—in response to a California Open Records Act request from the newspaper.
The information released Friday from Director of Administrative Services Brett Miller also included the city’s existing policy on Cal Card issuance and use.
On Tuesday, the council took up the matter and voted 4-1 on the update, with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez voting against it. The mayor did not offer reasoning from the dais for his decision, though he did mention how he has been a proponent of reducing the number of credit cards issued to employees.
“I don’t like the idea of having credit cards throughout the city,” Velazquez said Tuesday.
Miller in providing the amount of $794,681 spent on those credit cards during the last fiscal year ending June 30—the city’s total general fund budget is around $18 million—pointed out how those expenses include a 1 percent cash-back incentive as part of the Cal Card program employed by Hollister.
He said those expenditures are managed department by department—with senior officials signing off as part of the process—but not totaled anywhere in the broader city budget. The county, meanwhile, does not issue credit cards to staff members or elected officials, confirmed Sara Fontanos, a management analyst for San Benito County.
Of the 105 city employees now issued the cards, council members make up five of them. Just one council member, Mickie Luna, used her Cal Card last fiscal year.
Luna spent $246.07 on the city credit card, according to the provided records. Luna replied by email it was for the Wells Water Conference in Palm Springs on March 5-6. The expenses were for one night at the hotel, at $177.77, and gas for $68.30. She paid for meals and stayed with family a second night, she added.
Hollister’s broad use of the credit cards, meanwhile, could change soon.
Two weeks after the Free Lance filed an open records request for a plethora of data on city-issued credit cards used by employees, the agenda for Hollister’s council meeting Tuesday includes an item to consider an extensive update to the policy governing government workers’ credit card use. In response to the records request, Miller initially asked for the maximum allowable extension to Sept. 11 but then released the data Friday.
The policy update covers rules for who uses the Cal Cards, what they’re used for, and limits on individual expenditures capping out at $3,500.
The newspaper submitted a request under the California Open Records Act on Aug. 18. Public bodies are given 10 days to respond but can request a 14-day extension, which the city did.
When pressed for the information late last week, with the policy item on the council agenda, the city released the requested data.

Leave your comments