This is the fourth in a multi-part series about irregularities in the use of public money by Lake Forest Councilwoman Kathy McCullough, when she goes traveling to conferences on “city business”. Bear in mind that attendance at these conferences is not mandatory but rather something Mrs. McCullough volunteers to do and many Council members do not attend.
- Part 1 discussed the discrepancies between what Mrs. McCullough did and what she said she did.
- Part 2 detailed the refusal by the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Chief of Police to do anything about the complaint that Mrs. McCullough’s behavior appeared to breach the law.
- Part 3 offered an illustration of the “irregularities” in Mrs. McCullough’s spending, showing that she violates the City policy and uses limousines and taxis when much less expensive transportation is available.
Today we’ll explore another example of Mrs. McCullough’s apparent penchant to violate City policy. All together I found more than 60 instances, falling into half a dozen different categories, and spread over 18 different days. Because City officials refuse to explore the issues, you will have to judge for yourself.
The Lake Forest “Expense Reimbursement and Travel Policy” was adopted in 1995 and updated at periodic intervals, most recently in 2010. Among other things, the code specifically forbids reimbursement for “Family expenses, including a partner’s expense when accompanying the official on City-related business…” (page 3)
McCullough admits and the record shows that she purposefully spends City money on her husband’s share of the tax expenses when they have meals together. For example, on Sept 5, 2012 Mrs. McCullough shared a meal with her husband in their room for a total cost of $110.55. They both ate about $40 worth of food, but when it came time to pay the check, instead of splitting the check, McCullough used City money to pay the entire cost of the tax and the entire delivery charge.
Mrs. McCullough admits she knows this is inappropriate, but in mitigation, she claims that her husband buys her bottled water and snacks and she is merely reimbursing him for his expenses on her behalf. But the evidence proves that McCullough charges the city for her bottled water and snacks on almost every trip, and therefore her claim appears to be false – i.e., McCullough is charging the city for her bottled water and snacks and then paying with public funds the personal expenses of her husband’s share of the taxes because she claims he buys her bottled water and snacks and is not reimbursed.
McCullough or her husband bought her bottled water and snacks and McCullough asked the City to pay for this, which the City did. There was no reason to pay her husband’s share of the taxes to compensate him for the cost of the water and snacks – they had already been compensated by the City.
In the unlikely event that McCullough, who is a large woman, consumed even more water and snacks than she already had the City pay for, she should have submitted “in lieu” receipts with an explanation and received the additional reimbursement. Instead she chose to break the law even while legal alternatives were available to her. The use of City money to pay her husband’s portion of the taxes is an illegal act.
The illegal use of City money in this case cannot be attributed to a lack of knowledge because (a) Mrs. McCullough has been a public official for 20 years, (b) she actually participated in drafting and approving the code in question, (c) cost-sharing is a common practice and any reasonable person knows that when you split the bill, you split the bill, and (d) Mrs. McCullough actually admits knowing that this process is illegal and offers a reason for why she violated the law.
Over a series of two years and a half dozen trips, it appears that Mrs. McCullough had the City pick up her husband’s share of the taxes, tips, and/or deliver fees on more than 20 occasions.
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