"He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."
Matthew 25:33

Friday, July 23, 2010

Setting the Record Straight: Rebecca Otto`s Lavish Spending as State Auditor

Claim #1: Otto Required To Attend Conferences Out Of State. “Otto said her travels to pension related meetings are required travel. ‘I am required by statute to go these conferences,’ she said. ‘Nothing has gone wrong. I’ve done a good job.’” (T.W. Budig, “Republicans accuse Auditor Rebecca Otto of lavish expenses,” ECM Publishers, July 19, 2010)

The Truth: Minnesota Statute 356A regarding Public Pension Fiduciary Responsibility does not make any reference to the fact that the state auditor must attend such conferences.

Claim #2: Otto Is Required To Stay At Lavish Hotels. Otto: “The conferences are pre-arranged and you sign up to go and it’s a package so…” [Reporter] “Do you have the option of, uh, looking at their rates and saying that seems a little high and maybe I’ll stay at the holiday inn. Does anybody do that?” Otto: “You could ask PERA, I guess. I don’t know.” (“Auditor Spending Reports,” KSTP-News, July 19, 2010)

The Truth: No state statute requires the state auditor to stay at any hotel or motel. In addition, the hotels Otto which stayed at were reimbursed separately from the conference registrations. There is no question she could have gone down the street to a cheaper hotel and saved the taxpayers money. In fact , this was a point KSTP reporter Tom Hauser specifically made at the end of his report: “I did a quick internet search and found many hotel rooms in the area of the Sheraton Chicago between one and two hundred dollars, including in the Sheraton Chicago for $199 that, of course, as you heard, Otto paid $368 for.” (“Auditor Spending Reports,” KSTP-News, July 19, 2010)

Claim #3: Otto Reimbursed Only $31, Regardless Of Cost Of Meal. “As for the $44 lobster and cream pie, Otto said that was the total cost of the meal — not the portion she was reimbursed. Depending on whether a state employee skips breakfast and lunch, the reimbursement amount could be $31, she explained.” (T.W. Budig, “Republicans accuse Auditor Rebecca Otto of lavish expenses,” ECM Publishers, July 19, 2010)

The Truth: According to Otto’s Employee Expense Report, she declares “under penalty of perjury, that this claim is just.” Otto claimed $44.52 for the lobster dinner and $45.96 for other expenses during that trip for a total of $90.48. Otto signed the expense report on 12/1/2008 and then submitted it. According to the form provided to The Republican Party of Minnesota, this $90.48 was paid on 12/5/2008, without any corrections. She was obviously paid more than the $31 dollars she claims. (Primary Source Documents, page 79)

Claim #4: Otto Says Some Travel Never Occurred. “If you look at the GOP press release, you’ll see that Sutton lists $1,472.52 of staff travel that never even occurred.” (Rebecca Otto Press Release, “Pat Anderson, GOP chair Sutton ‘have trouble with numbers’” July 19, 2010)

The Truth: According to the Employee Expense Report signed by Celeste Grant, Otto’s Deputy State Auditor/General Counsel, on June 28, 2007, reimbursement claims were made for $1,472.52. The form is marked paid on June 29, 2007, without any corrections. Rebecca Otto cannot claim that this travel never occurred when the claim is clearly marked paid. (Primary Source Documents, page 7)

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