this is outrageous that on $11,500 of the $280,000 in illegal travel expenses will be paid back.

if the employees who made these illegal travel expensea can't or won't pay the city back they should be fired.

if for some reason the employees though they were legimate expenses and paid them in good faith, which i really doubt, then the employees manager who approved the expense should be made to pay back the expenses or be fired.

Phoenix suspends 6 over travel Inquiry uncovers $280,000 in dubious charges

Ginger D. Richardson The Arizona Republic Feb. 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Phoenix has suspended six employees for violating the city's travel policies, including an acting deputy city manager and the head of Sky Harbor International Airport.

A seventh has been issued a written reprimand.

In disciplining the city workers, Phoenix held accountable not only those who took the trips, which included sojourns to northern Thailand and east Africa, but those who approved the questionable expenses as well.

More than 100 city workers and four City Council members were questioned about their business and training trips after a Republic investigation uncovered numerous examples of employees questionably spending money on the city's dime. In total, the city's three-month-long inquiry uncovered more than $280,000 in dubious charges, although only a fraction of that, or about $11,500, will be repaid.

That's because the bulk of the disputed expenses, more than 80 percent, was international airline fares incurred by Aviation Department employees who flew business class to Europe and Asia with the full knowledge of their bosses.

As a result, Phoenix is not asking workers to pay back those charges, or any large hotel or meal expenses that did not specifically violate the city's policies.

The city's Aviation Department was hit the hardest in the inquiry, with three of its current or former managers and supervisors receiving five-day suspensions without pay.

Those suspensions, which were given to Aviation Director David Krietor, Deputy Aviation Director Ann Warner and acting Deputy City Manager David Cavazos, who formerly served as both acting aviation director and assistant aviation director, were the harshest punishments handed out by the city.

The employees were notified of the decision this week.

Sending a message

A specially appointed Travel Review Committee, convened at the behest of City Manager Frank Fairbanks, said Thursday that the disciplinary action was designed to send a message and to "change behavior."

Krietor, who did not incur any questionable expenses himself, was punished because he approved many of Warner's and Cavazos' reports.

"You set the tone that allowed subordinate staff to violate city policy," the review committee wrote in Krietor's disciplinary notice. "You did not take appropriate oversight of city funds and the actions of your staff."

The letter adds, "These actions contributed to a loss of public trust and brought discredit to the Aviation Department and the City of Phoenix."

Krietor was not the only one who signed off on the reports. Many were also approved by then-Deputy City Manager Marsha Wallace, who was Krietor's boss.

Assistant City Manager Alton Washington said Thursday that had Wallace not retired in 2005, she also would have faced discipline.

Krietor, a nearly 15-year veteran at Phoenix City Hall, makes $160,243 annually. That means his weeklong suspension will cost him nearly $3,100 in pay. On Friday, he took full responsibility for his actions, saying, "I am the department head. I am responsible."

He expressed similar sentiments in an e-mail he sent Thursday to all Aviation Department employees.

"Ultimately, it is my responsibility to make sure we comply with the rules," he wrote.

The city manager's office has directed Krietor to take his leave before the end of the fiscal year, or by July.

It's not clear when Warner and Cavazos, both heavily involved in marketing the airport internationally, will serve their five-day suspensions.

Cavazos, who has held a host of positions with the city in recent years, will lose $2,931 in pay as a result of his five-day suspension. He makes $152,422.

Although Cavazos is now in the city manager's office, most of his travel charges were incurred while he was at the Aviation Department. In disciplining him, the city said that he "showed a disregard for (his) fiduciary responsibilities as a management representative" and that he "set the tone that allowed (his) subordinate staff to also inappropriately use city funds."

Cavazos, who has been asked to reimburse the city for $911.76 in expenses, said Friday in a written statement that he "accepts full responsibility for these expenses" and that he has "reimbursed the City of Phoenix accordingly."

Warner, who has consistently spent the most money on travel and training, nearly $200,000 over the past five years, was disciplined for a variety of reasons, the city said.

The review team questioned her reasons for staying in a five-star hotel in Thailand in 2001, and said expense reports contained excessive charges. She was also scolded for being slow to reimburse the city for unused travel advances.

She has been asked to reimburse the city $844.02 in expenses.

Warner, who makes $107,744 a year, will lose $2,072 in pay as a result of the suspension.

On Friday, Warner justified her travel expenses by saying that there has been a "$2.3 billion return on (the) investment for the city of Phoenix." She did not answer questions related to her suspension.

Warner, because of her job classification, has appeal rights. Krietor and Cavazos do not. She has 14 days, from the day she was notified of the suspension, to decide.

Other suspensions

While the aviation employees received the harshest discipline, they weren't the only ones suspended as a result of the city's inquiry.

Three other employees received two- or three-day suspensions, which, under city policy, do not result in forced time off from work without pay.

The suspension notices do go into the employee's permanent personnel file.

Employees receiving this level of discipline were:

Stephen Craig, Phoenix assistant chief counsel. Craig, who spent a lot of time in the past fiscal year crisscrossing the country while successfully defending the city in a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit, received a two-day suspension. Phoenix officials said that he submitted a number of expenses, including non-economy parking charges and unnecessary hotel and airfare costs that didn't comply with city policy. He is also being asked to reimburse the city for $1,895.67 in inappropriate charges.

Craig said Friday that he has paid back the money and added, "If the city thinks that I need to do things differently, or make improvements, then I am eager to do that."

John Workley, assistant finance director. Workley also received a two-day suspension. He had responsibility for auditing employees' reports before cutting a check. Workley said Friday that he has created a 50-point checklist to ensure his department catches questionable travel expenses in the future.

"It's never any fun getting a suspension," Workley said. "But they did what they thought was appropriate, and I understand that."

Gordon Guge, an employee in the Street Transportation Department. Guge received a three-day suspension. Phoenix officials determined he not only charged inappropriate expenses to the city, but that he was "less than truthful" when he was questioned about them.

Guge did not return a call seeking comment.

In addition, Gloria Hurtado, head of Phoenix's Human Services Department, received a written reprimand for allowing one of her employees to go on an "East African leadership safari" that included white-water rafting on the Nile River. Hurtado said Friday that she "regrets approving the trip" and would not approve one like it again.

More reviews

Officials have implemented more-stringent rules on travel and have slashed the budgets of many city departments.

But in a memo to Fairbanks this week, the travel review team also recommended that the airport's marketing program be reviewed to determine if its benefits merit its costs, and for compliance with city policies and procedures.

Phoenix officials will also be looking at the Law Department, which repeatedly racked up thousands of dollars in expenses by sending many of its attorneys to a continuing-education seminar in San Diego.

The city also plans to monitor staffing levels in the Finance Department to ensure that its employees have time to adequately review travel reports before issuing checks.

Finally, the city plans to do an annual review of all travel and training expenses, and evaluate managers in their annual performance reviews on how well they control travel costs in their departments.

"This has been an exhaustive review," Assistant City Manager Alton Washington said.

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