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.