A House subcommittee invited Schaefer to testify before the panel. A month later the subcommittee created a commission to study ways to simplify application forms. A national television news program on food stamp reform will feature Schaefer and county welfare director James Isom this week, the supervisor said.
Several county officials also credit Lacey with helping to bring unique statewide pilot programs in mental health to Ventura County. One that began last July is worth $16 million over four years.
Erickson's lobbying was primarily responsible for an extra $4 million the county got from the state for a proposed $50-million jail, Wittenberg said.
Likewise, Flynn, through his water connections, is widely credited with helping to secure an $8-million federal project that replenishes the ground-water table in the Oxnard Plain.
The costs of such connections can be seen in county travel vouchers.
Schaefer's nine-day trip to Washington in February cost $1,782. Lacey's cost $1,563 for five days, though she is disputing a $217-a-night rate charged at the Hyatt Regency hotel and said she hopes to refund about $500 to the county.
Lacey spent another $1,600 one month later on a second trip to Washington, this one for a National Assn. of Counties conference and to lobby on a proposed change in federal clear-air law. Erickson also attended at a cost of $1,593, including $78 for taxis and $45 for a limousine, according to a reimbursement form.
Flynn, who estimates that he spends about two days a week on water issues, took up to five trips a month last year, though most were within the state.
On one trip to Orange County, Flynn spent $184 on a flight via Los Angeles International Airport. The trip took about three hours, nearly as long as it would have taken him to drive.
"Driving to Orange County takes so long and is so wearing because of the traffic," Flynn said Friday, calling from a water committee meeting in Orange County. "If I could fly every time, I would."
However, documents for the supervisors' 60 trips reveal few splurges. They sometimes took taxis instead of shuttle buses from airports, but they rarely stayed in expensive rooms and frequently shopped for competitive air fares. Lacey paid $298 for a round-trip flight to Washington.
Meal reimbursements are set by the county auditor, who generally allows $38 a day on trips, $8 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $20 for dinner. The amounts are higher for the high-cost areas of San Francisco, New York, Washington and Los Angeles County.
Board members, each elected from a district representing about 130,000 people, earn $47,877 a year. In addition, each receives an auto allowance of $500 a month or a leased automobile.
Veteran County Auditor-Controller Norman R. Hawkes said all supervisors draw from the same pool of expense money, "and I've never heard any discussions or concerns" about a supervisor overspending.
However, he emphasized that it is not his role to determine whether trips are of value to the county.
"I don't think we've had a problem that's a concern to me," Hawkes said. "If the board sets their budget and they're within it, then I'm not concerned."
The supervisors overspent their $1.83-million budget last year by $42,200 because of unexpectedly high personnel expenses, according to a budget analyst in chief administrator Wittenberg's office.
This story was reported by Tina Daunt, Daryl Kelley, Hugo Martin, Santiago O'Donnell and Psyche Pascual. It was written by Kelley.