CORRUPTION BY PUBLIC OFFICIALS IS A WAY OF LIFE 

Have you noticed the frequency of corruption committed by public officials? I became aware that the watchdog media reports seem to appear daily in the news. So I began to clip these articles for just one week in April and came up with these results.

Probably the headliner of my selected official faux pas of the week was the indictment of three high-ranking officials in the city government of Flint, Michigan. Their crime: failure to report evidence of lead in the city’s water system. These were public employees assigned to monitor the water quality and failed in their responsibility causing a panic among the residents of Flint. The investigation will continue and could lead right to the governor’s office.

This same week produced more than one revelation about political figures using campaign funds for personal expenditures. The Congressman from Indiana, Martin Stutzman, was caught spending $2000 for a six-day trip to Los Angeles last summer with his family. His wife even admitted it was a family vacation, but spokesman for the Republican reported that Stutzman reimbursed the campaign fund for his family’s portion of the trip.

However, his trip to Disneyland was classified as business. That led to further investigation that found over $300,000 in flights, vehicle charges, meals and hotel stays that the campaign fund spent after the Congressman was elected and went to Washington in 2010.

Closer to home, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of Alpine was caught using campaign funds for such items as oral surgery, video games, his children’s school and even a few items purchased at a surfing shop. As soon as these questionable items were publicized, Hunter promptly reimbursed his campaign fund with the excuse that he had mixed up his credit cards. I wonder if someone who can’t properly handle credit cards should be responsible for running our country?

By the end of the sample week, Hunter was besieged with investigations by the Federal Election Commission and the Office of Congressional Ethics. The Congressman had already reimbursed his campaign fund $12,000 for the items listed above and was reviewing more of his expenditures with notations such as mistaken or questionable. His Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper, claims that even some expenditures not question by the FEC were being reimbursed.

Amid the media exposure were some specifics of “mistakes” such as $1200 to a garage door company that Kasper suggested someone from the campaign may have damaged the family’s garage door. (Hunter has his campaign office at home.) Explaining the $3500 paid to Hunter’s children’s school, he speculated that the school had incorrectly noted a charitable contribution as tuition. Somewhat more revealing was the payment to a jewelry shop in Italy during the family vacation for $216 that was listed as food and beverage, despite the fact that the store does not provide those products, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune watchdog report.

More discrepancies can be listed but you get the picture that when a public official is caught tampering with designated public funds, there is always a scramble to make excuses indicating unintentional oversight and prompt reimbursement.

The San Diego City Attorney revealed that 98 files for pending indictments had been tabled, in some cases beyond the statute of limitations to prosecute. There was also evidence that files had been taken home by the investigator and not processed in a timely manner. A Deputy District Attorney and her supervisor involved in the oversight both left the city attorney office last November.

Queries from the press opened the can of worms in this eventful week of misconduct. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith was stunned, but staff members blamed the overload of pending cases due to staff shortages. Sounds like passing the buck.

In related misconduct by public officials looms the plethora of sexual harassment in the workplace. Graphic examples have been on the front pages for years highlighted by Mayor Bob Filner’s infamous misbehavior that will cost the taxpayers of San Diego $1 million when all the settlements have been reached.

The case for this week involved County Supervisor David Roberts (not to be confused with Supervisor Ron Roberts) who is running for re-election. A potential staff harassment indictment was called off by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in order to block claims by Roberts’ campaign opponents that he is not fit to hold public office. Apparently that means the violated staffers are the sacrificial lambs for Robert’s reelection.

A final scandal for the spotlight week involved bribes paid to high-ranking naval officials. For six years prosecutors have investigated the operations of a contractor for the US Navy in the notorious “Fat Leonard” case. A commander who had influence in directing ships to certain ports for supplies received bribes of gifts, travel and services of prostitutes provided by the supply contractor, Leonard.  The career naval officer was found guilty and sentenced to six years in federal prison.

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