SACRAMENTO, CA - As the City of Sacramento tries to determine how an employee was able to rack up $9,000 worth of personal charges on a city credit card, new information has surfaced highlighting one of the problems.
Lisa Serna-Mayorga, an aide to Mayor Kevin Johnson, resigned last week when the charges were discovered.
According to sources, city officials originally found $3,000 in charges for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Serna-Mayorga was forced to pay it back immediately.
But a quick review of previous years show additional charges, up to $6,000, the source said. Serna-Mayorga paid that back as well and resigned.
The Sacramento Bee is reporting the charges ranged from gasoline, to groceries, to a trip to Disneyland.
"The trip to Disneyland was fairly recent," Sacramento City councilman Steve Cohn said. "So that was caught within a couple months. I don't know why it took that long, and that's part of what I want our city manager and auditor to look at."
What's already been found though, is a lack of oversight.
Cohn said the city auditor didn't feel he should be auditing expenses for the council and mayor's office. Serna-Mayorga was the council operations manager before being promoted to Director of Constituent Affairs, a position in the mayor's office.
"The city auditor felt he could not directly audit the council and mayor offices because he works for us," Cohn said. "So we're going to remedy that by hiring an outside firm."
It should be noted the city's finance department should have caught the personal expenses before an audit was necessary.
"I think this shows that there's room for improvement," Cohn said.
A look at Serna-Mayorga's personal finances show her and her husband were having cash problems.
According to county records, the couple bought a home in Natomas in 2001 and refinanced it four times, owing $408,000 in 2006.
It was sold in a short-sale in 2011 for $206,000, the same time period some of the expenses were charged to the city card.
In a statement, City Manager John Shirey said:
I am taking this issue very seriously. I have asked all department heads to review credit card use to assure that proper check and balance procedures are being followed and to reduce the number of persons authorized to use credit cards. Due to the ongoing criminal investigation, I cannot discuss the details of the incident at this time or share information or facts that could negatively affect this case.
The criminal investigation he referred to is one opened at his request. The Sacramento police chief and investigators are reviewing the case, looking at possible criminal charges to file against Serna-Mayorga.
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org