REDONDO BEACH — The City Council is expected to approve an ordinance Tuesday that will make the council and mayor eligible for larger mileage reimbursements, despite questions about past mileage claims and criticisms about lack of accountability.
The mayor and the council now can be reimbursed for up to 600 miles a month at 25 cents a mile, or $150, while driving on city business. City records show that in the past 2 1/2 years, the mayor and most council members claimed the full 600 miles nearly every month, without accounting for specific trips.
Redondo Beach is only six square miles, but the officials said they frequently drive outside Redondo on city business.
30 Cents a Mile
The new ordinance would remove the mileage cap and increase reimbursement to 30 cents a mile. It also would increase the mayor's and the council members' monthly salaries from $500 to $525, but the pay raise has not raised any controversy.
Mayor Barbara J. Doerr and most of the council members said they probably drive more than 600 miles every month for council and committee meetings, site visits and meetings with constituents.
But City Clerk John Oliver, in an interview, said he believes that driving 600 miles each month, "month in and month out, I think it would be difficult to do. . . .
"All of the previous councils have accepted each other's word that they're traveling the mileage they put down. I find that unusual," he said.
Several residents have objected to the ordinance. "I don't think everybody drives the full 600 miles," Will Battles, a Redondo Beach resident, told the council last week. To remove the 600-mile cap would open a "Pandora's box," he said.
Councilman John Chapman proposed the changes, and all of the other council members and the mayor have expressed support for the measure. Chapman said the cap, which has been in effect since 1976, violates the City Charter. The charter states that the mayor and the council have the right to be reimbursed for expenses relating to city business.
In an interview last Tuesday, Councilwoman Marcia Martin said she does not think the mayor or the council members--except Councilman Archie Snow--routinely drive more than 600 miles a month. "The times anybody would drive over 600 miles a month would be very rare," she said, perhaps once a year. Snow was cited by the other officials as probably the most active council member.
Martin said she usually drives between 400 and 600 miles each month. A review of 32 of her monthly expense vouchers, however, show that she claimed, and was reimbursed for, 600 miles for 28 of those months. In each of the other four months--November, 1983, to February, 1984--she claimed 500 miles.
Sometimes Drives More
She revised her position later in the interview to say that sometimes she does drive more than 600 miles a month, and sometimes less, but that it probably evens out in the end.
"I don't know how many miles I drive," she said, "because I never write it down." She said that Carol Lininger, the executive secretary to the city manager, told her to claim 600 miles because that was what other council members routinely did.
Lininger acknowledged giving Martin that instruction and said 600-mile claims have been a "standard practice." The council members are responsible, however, for their expense vouchers, she added. "I don't feel they should turn in more mileage than they're actually driving. . . . And I think they should be able to substantiate it."
Chapman said he was given an instruction book after he was elected by the city manager's office which included a sample expense voucher. "I started just filling in what everybody else is doing . . . the 600-mile cap." He has claimed 600 miles in each of the 14 full months he has been in office through June.
Drives Long Distances
He said he often must drive to city-related business from distant points in the county because he is a field supervisor for Los Angeles County. Anybody that doubts that a council member can drive 600 miles every month, does not understand the responsibilities of the position, he said.
The city clerk's and city manager's offices are responsible for reviewing and approving the expense vouchers. City Clerk Oliver and City Manager Timothy Casey both said at a recent council meeting that since the vouchers are signed under penalty of perjury, they do not generally question them.
A few Redondo Beach residents told the mayor and the council at recent meetings that they should detail their mileage, as requested on the forms.
"I think the expense files that you've submitted are a disgrace" because they lacked specifics, said Tom O'Leary, a Redondo Beach resident and council candidate in the early 1970s.
Resident Norm Simoes told the council and the mayor, "There is an accountability to the people who are paying for these things."
Not Intended for Them