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State Won't Pay for Power Buyers' Meals

July 25, 2001|NANCY VOGEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Controller Kathleen Connell said Tuesday that she would block payment of at least $3,661 charged by state power buyers for meals and snacks in January.

The Department of Water Resources charged the food, including $910 for sushi and $439 for takeout meals from an Italian restaurant, on a state credit card that is supposed to be used only for emergency expenses, Connell said. Those charges are part of an $11,000 claim that includes questionable purchases of cases of candy and water, she said.

The water department was responsible for buying at least a third of the power used by California on Jan. 17, after Gov. Gray Davis signed an emergency declaration.

Department spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said his agency ordered the food for its hastily arranged 50-person power-buying branch in Sacramento, just as it would have during a flood emergency.

"Many of these folks were working seven days a week, as many as 20 hours a day," he said. "We had people sleeping in conference rooms."

"Maybe [Connell] doesn't believe this is an emergency," Hidalgo said. "We felt it was warranted. We weren't in a position to have everybody track down receipts and file individual claims."

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