SAN DIEGO - The San Diego City Council's Audit Committee voted unanimously Monday to continue with an investigation into whether the administration of former Mayor Bob Filner violated municipal credit card policies.
The two-pronged investigation is focused on a trip to Paris that Filner took in June, accompanied by his San Diego police security detail, and personal expenses on the mayor's credit card.
The Audit Committee members, meanwhile, also expressed concern about whether city controls on credit cards, known in bureaucratic parlance as purchasing cards, or "p-cards," are tight enough.
City Controller Ken Whitfield said he initially denied a request to have the credit limit on a p-card raised so that the police officers who guard Filner could travel to Paris in business class. City policy calls for flying in coach, and plenty of the economy-class seats appeared to be available, he said.
Whitfield told the committee members his denial was overruled by executives higher up in the mayor's office. The trip by the security detail cost the city $21,579, according to city records.
An Iranian dissident group paid for Filner's flights. Former Interim Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick said Filner was "emphatic" the trip would benefit San Diego, but he never explained why.
While public accusations of sexual harassment by about 20 women dominated the narrative in Filner's last couple of months in office, investigators also looked into whether he misused his city-issued credit card and shook down developers.
Committee member Scott Sherman said there was a "systemic problem in the way people were thinking in the mayor's office."
Karley Schreiner, a public representative on the committee, said, "It's not that the process wasn't documented or the controls weren't there, it was that they were circumvented -- let's call it what it is."
She said both Auditor Eduardo Luna and the city's independent auditors needed to look into the situation.
Regarding the personal expenses on a city credit card, Whitfield said Filner's office went four months without providing receipts in some sort of "gamesmanship," so he was unable to reimburse the bank. The receipts weren't turned over until the day before the account went to collections, and they showed numerous personal expenses like restaurant tabs, he said.
Whitfield said he's never seen an executive run up such expenses on a business credit card.
Filner eventually paid the city back $975. Former Chief of Staff Lee Burdick reimbursed the city around $125 for a blender, he said.
"We need to fix this; we will fix this," said committee chairman Kevin Faulconer, a councilman who is running for mayor to finish the three years remaining in the term of Filner, who stepped down Aug. 30. "This has to be a
lesson that is learned so it's never repeated again."
In a memo to Faulconer last week, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said new information has come to light since Filner resigned "that should be pursued." He did not specify what the information was, and it was not revealed at the meeting.