Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Submitted by Linda  Sutter, December 22, 2019-

In order to avoid a finding that an expenditure is a gift of Public Funds, courts require a legal consideration received by a government agency in exchange for public funds expended.

So what is a legal Consideration?

A legal consideration is a return commensurate with the value of public funds, this means “you get what you paid for.”

Adequacy of Consideration

To avoid being classified as a gift, the amount and type of the consideration given in exchange must be “adequate” it cannot be merely “nominal.”

Types of Consideration can be tangible or nontangible so long as it aims at serving a legitimate public purpose.

Tangible expenditures include public buildings, police salaries, or other public benefits such as schools, and textbooks.

Intangible expenditures use of public funds to encourage patriotism, protect public health, support destitute persons, and to support veterans who in return for their service to the Country.

Moral consideration is not a legal consideration. By contrast the following is not a “legal consideration” that justifies a public expenditure:

Any gift of personal use, in the Japanese Delegate that was here for instance, coffee cups, private dinners, Starbucks coffee, special journals and magnets, private transportation of delegates, etc are not considered  having a public purpose or public benefit. Those expenditures were personal. Likewise, when the Fairgrounds uses public taxpayers money for trips to casinos, private parties acknowledging their volunteers, gifts for the volunteers and does not open the party up for public members, they too are in violation of spending public funds unlawfully. Additionally, when Sheriff Apperson requested to expend public funds for a private award ceremony to acknowledge his staff last year, Although commendable, this also was a misuse of public funds that served no public purpose. Why City and County Attorney’s permit these expenditures without notifying the elected that it is unlawful, is beyond me.

Faulty Rationales (myths) for making gifts of public funds.

Goodwill, “Our public purpose is goodwill or public relations.”

A public purpose must be something more clear than an abstract “goodwill” or “public relations” benefit to the public. Authority cannot authorize the kind of personal gifts or perks promoting a brand name or firm loyalty which may be accepted in the private business world. Such as the trip where Board of Supervisor Chris Howard and Maor Blake Inscore accompanied several business men;; Wakefield, Rumiano’s, Hartwick’s, etc to Japan for their own private agenda. Instead, Community leaders should determine with some thoughtfulness what legitimate public purpose may justify an expenditure.

Professional enhancement confused for Public Benefit. The Myth, “it is our people that build our reputation; our gifts to them that builds relationships.” The reality is officials sometimes confuse a benefit to the community what is more objectively a benefit to themselves. They rationalize that anything that enhances the reputation of it’s elected members, is dependent on the esteem reputation of City Council and Board of Supervisors. But this rationalization is not a legitimate excuse to expend public funds for things of personal benefits.

California law strictly requires public officers to avoid placing themselves in a position in which personal interest may come into conflict with their duty to the public.Their duty to the public is to protect precious taxpayers funds and not spend then on trivial expenditures without public purpose or benefit.

What are trifling Expenditures? “Our gift should be overlooked because it is only a few dollars. Given modern governmental accounting practices, regulations, conflict of interest law, and criminal law, expenditures of public funds or use of public funds for which a monetary value may be estimated can never be considered trifling or de minimus. In fact, the law CLEARLY holds the misappropriation of Public Funds to be a Criminal Act, with no minimum monetary limit specified.

In Conclusion; Regardless how small amount the Public Funds are utilized it is criminal to misuse Public Funds. Case in Point;

A parking meter attendant was convicted of a felony for misappropriating mere coins from a parking meter. People v. Wall(1980) 114 C.A. 3d 15, 20, 170 C.R. 522.

  1. I’m not sure all the details of their visit to Japan. But I believe it was legal for public officials to use public funds to visit Japan. If the intent of the travel is to meet with other government official, to establish a relationship that result in added commerce to our area and thereby improving the lives of the members of our community. Where is the proof that the mayor or council members were doing something to advance their own personal agenda? I for one am excited of the prospect that we are now on the world stage (Olympics) with a huge opportunity to bring FAVORABLE attention and growth to our area. To promote tourism and to bring a much needed infusion of cash into our local businesses. I disagree with most items the author identifies as misuse of public funds or gifts. While not an expert in this area I do have some familiarity. Perhaps look at what other agencies accept or reject in the name of diplomacy. We should not stifle our public servants from exercising a sense of decorum. I don’t believe there were any acts that directly benefited those public official and the “gifts” received actually benefited the people of Crescent while they functioned as our representatives.

    1. The reality is Herman, that Linda is spot on about public officials and their hazy rational for spending public money rather than their own. It has become so epidemic and has been for such a long time that we, as the public tend to accept these explanations as a benefit for the public good when they are not. Is it really the case when there is no real evidence that it is so? You talk as though the thousands of dollars spent by various local public governments for advertising at the Olympics will guarantee some sort of measurable return, but is that realistic and just who will it benefit?

      It is not that there should be “proof” of malfeasance, but that it be obvious to the public that they are getting something in return for the expenditure of their money. As Linda says, “you get what you pay for”. Extravagant displays, “parties”, or expensive travel to foreign destinations can have the appearance of “Public Good”, but is it really necessary, and who really benefits? I would think that even you will admit that the public good aspect of this is defined as something that may or may not happen in the future, but is it realistic given the knowledge that we have at the moment that anyone but a few public official and their friends have been the only beneficiaries of the public money spent?

      As Leslie Barnes has said, public officials can and have rationalized some pretty iffy expenses and then if questioned, claim it as some sort of benefit to the public down the road that never happens!

      You certainly have the right to your opinion, nothing to see here, but history often tells a very different story, if we care to listen. Quite often many of the abuses of those in office or holding the public trust are never revealed, or some times at a later date. What is important in all this is that the public be reminded that it is part of their responsibility to make sure that the public trust is upheld by the people that are chosen to represent them and the public functionaries as well. The idea that the examples of hazy expenditure pointed to by Linda are not in your opinion worthy of examination by the public seems to me as a shirking of the public’s responsibility to hold their collective officials accountable for their actions.

  2. The main thing that is a huge major PROBLEM is that OFFiCIALS confuse what they think is a benefit to the Community when actually it is a BENEFIT to themselves!!!

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