POLITICS

CBS: California officials rack up $80,000 on travel despite ban

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

California officials have racked up a bill of more than $82,000 in travel expenses in the last 18 months, despite an April 2011 ban on non-essential travel, according to a CBS Sacramento investigation.

The investigation found  California Department of Veterans Affairs executives have been charging California taxpayers even when their trips do not meet the definition of mission-critical. Among the worst offenders are CalVet Undersecretary Robin Umberg and department director Peter Gravett:

Umberg charges her trips to California taxpayers, but our investigation found 90 percent of Umberg’s trips violate Gov. Brown’s April 2011 mandate.

“As a taxpayer it makes me sick,” the insider told CBS13.

Umberg is just one of five top administrators at the department known as CalVet — all apparent members of an exclusive CalVet Travel Club.

Gravett, meanwhile, has racked up the highest expense report, CBS says:

Records show the biggest spender in the Calvet Travel Club is department director Peter Gravett — a frequent flier who spent nearly $32,000 on travel since May of 2011, according to documents CBS13 reviewed…

Gravett has a home in Rolling Hills Estates in Southern California, and records indicate 75 percent of Gravett’s trips have been to attend events near his home.

Of his 58 trips CBS13 tallied up, 45 of them were non-mission critical as defined by Gov. Brown.

Brown’s mandate was intended to help curb the state’s out-of-control spending. California is currently running a $28 billion budget deficit, which is only part of its total debt of $34 billion.

To help fill the gap, Californians voted to raise taxes on themselves in November 2012, the first general tax to pass in the state in two decades. But according to the CBS investigation, those tax dollars may simply be funding more travel:

“The amount of travel that they’re doing — it’s excessive from what I’ve seen through past administrations,” an insider said, comparing Gov. Brown’s appointees to that of Gov. Schwarzenegger.

That insider told CBS13 executive travel at the department has increased — even under Gov. Brown’s executive order.

 

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