CA Labor Commissioner Used Taxpayer Dollars to Pay Personal Expenses

California labor commissioner Art Lujan charged over $17,000 in false relocation costs, as well as various travel and meal expenses, the California Bureau of State Audits concluded on April 17.  Before Gov. Gray Davis appointed him in 2000, Lujan was business mgr. of the San Diego Bldg. and Construction Trades Council.

The Dept. of Industrial Relations that Lujan heads is based in San Francisco.  Between April 2000, and Nov. 2001, Lujan claimed $1,524 in relocation costs within the allowable 30 days after his appointment, but without the approval of the Dept. of Personnel Admin.  After the 30-day window, Lujan wrongly claimed another $2,554 in relocation costs, as well as $861 in airfares between San Diego and San Francisco he claimed were related to his move.  The only problem, as Lujan later admitted, was that he considered the real estate costs too high to actually move to San Francisco, where his dept. had its headquarters.  During Lujan’s supposed relocation, he also received $787 for lodging costs while in San Francisco.  In all, Lujan’s dept. admitted that their boss was wrongly reimbursed $5,726.

But the state auditor also found numerous violations of a rule prohibiting reimbursement of travel expenses between home and office, and at an official’s home.  Between April 2000 and November 2001, Lujan was wrongly paid $2,334 for hotel expenses in his home city of San Diego, $7,709 for travel costs from San Diego to San Francisco, and $3,768 for flights between San Diego and the state capital of Sacramento.  Adding $1,082 for meals in San Francisco, $635 in weekend car rentals, and another $43 of “relocation” expenses missed by Lujan’s dept., the state auditor found an additional $11,803 wrongly paid to Lujan.  In total, Lujan received $17,529 in reimbursements he was not legally entitled to.

Most disturbing was the industrial relations department’s response to the audit, which claimed that Lujan’s “primary dwelling” was the department’s San Francisco headquarters.  Thus, Lujan’s travels between his “primary dwelling” at the department’s San Francisco HQ and his San Diego home was “for a business purpose,” and therefore reimbursable.  After the state auditor disputed this interpretation of state law, Lujan’s dept. changed his “primary dwelling to Los Angeles effective Feb. 1, 2003. [California State Auditor Report I2003-1 4/17/03]