By Robert Haugh
In February, 2017, we reported that Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta was attending a three-night conference at Yosemite and staying at a famous luxury hotel on the city dime, the Majestic Hotel (a.k.a. Ahwahnee Hotel) that charges $500 per night or higher.
That prompted Caserta to pledge at a council meeting two days later that he would reimburse the city for the difference between the luxury hotel and the conference hotel: the Yosemite Valley Lodge.
Recently, we asked city staff if Caserta had paid the difference. Lynn Garcia, who works at City Hall for the Mayor and Council and set up the Yosemite trip, sent us this spreadsheet that shows that Caserta “paid” the city $714. Okay, so it looks like Caserta kept his pledge for the three-night conference.
But there was no date on the spreadsheet, so we asked a follow up question: when did Caserta pay?
That’s when we learned that he didn’t pay. The initial email from Garcia was really deceptive. The city actually paid Caserta $98 on March 30. We found that out when Garcia sent us the expense report:
It shows that Caserta billed the city:
- $196 for mileage to drive his own car to the conference from Santa Clara,
- $30 for transportation (we presume parking),
- $60 for meals (this would be in addition to the meals provided by the conference),
- $526 for the third night at the the Majestic Hotel (the city paid the first two nights)
We still think that the city should have used Priceline.com like we did in our initial report to find Caserta last-minute lodging.
Instead of spending over $500 per night at one of America’s best hotels, Caserta and his family could have stayed at the Best Western Cedar Inn and Suites for $107 per night and the city would not have had to cut him a check.
Maybe next year.
***Editor’s note: the Best Western option is a substantial distance (up to 1.5 hours) from the conference site – rooms at the host site start at around $275/night***