Mileage reports from embattled San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts’ office show a staffer tasked with driving Roberts to events logged 2,096 miles on his personal vehicle between July 2014 and April 2015.
Policy Adviser Harold Meza asked for reimbursements for those miles, stating on the reports that the purpose of the trips was mostly to drive Roberts to various events.
Questions over Roberts’ transportation were raised when a former staffer alleged the supervisor is double-dipping into the county’s car funds, using a county-provided vehicle or those of his staffers’ while also accepting a $1,000 per month allowance for his personal car.
The supervisor’s staff also logged more than 15,000 miles on the county-owned vehicle assigned to Roberts’ office in 2014 and 2015, according to records released to NBC7 Investigates through the California Public Records Act.
County policy about the car allowance states: “Such allowance shall be in lieu of all transportation charges or use of County provided vehicle by such eligible employee for motor vehicle travel within San Diego County in the performance of official duties.”
Meza’s mileage reports show he picked Roberts up at the supervisor’s home and drove him to various events such as Lion’s Club meetings, the National Federation of Filipino Association Gala, the American Lung Association Lung Force Walk Kick-off and the San Diego Latino Jewish Coalition Breakfast.
On Oct. 26, 2014, for example, Meza picked Roberts up from the San Diego Airport and transported him to the Marriott hotel on Rio Drive for the Gala of the San Diego Filipino American Humanitarian Foundation, the records state.
Meza then took Roberts from the gala to his home, detailing on the reports that the purpose of the trip was to “drop Dave off.”
On another occasion -- last November -- Meza logged leaving the Sheraton hotel in Carlsbad and driving to Roberts’ home. The stated taxpayer-funded purpose of that car trip was to “drop Dave off,” according to the report.
In her claim filed against the county, former scheduler Diane Porter said she didn’t think it was a proper use of taxpayer money.
“You’re paying him to drive, but you’re getting money for your car because you’re supposed to be using your car … that’s not right,” Porter said
Staffers also complained in interviews with NBC7 Investigates that Meza’s sole job duty was to drive Roberts around -- an accusation Roberts’ spokesman adamantly denies.
“He served as a policy advisor and a community representative,” spokesman Gary Gartner said at a news conference Thursday. “Some media outlets have unfairly categorized him as a driver and chauffer. A chauffer is somebody who takes you to an event, drops you off, and then waits for you and takes you to the next event. What the aides to the supervisor, including Harold and other aides have done is they take the supervisor to the event, they staff the supervisor. When people have constituent problems or complaints, or issues, they take notes on the back of the business card and then they follow up with that constituent or person. That’s part of the job.”
“In Harold’s case, because he speaks Spanish so eloquently, he served as a Spanish-language translator for media interviews as well as for constituents who spoke Spanish. It was also his responsibility to figure out a route to get the supervisor to meetings,” Gartner said.
On Nov. 10, Meza’s mileage reports state he picked Roberts up at his house and transported him to a destination identified as “work.” He billed 20 miles for that trip.
On a day in October, he made eight trips with Roberts, logging 106 miles.
A spokesman for the county said the agency reimburses mileage at the standard IRS rate, which would mean Meza applied for about $1,205 in reimbursements for those 2014 and 2015 trips.
Roberts’ spokesman Gartner said county officials forgot to give Roberts a form for him to sign that had all the information about the car allowance.
Gartner said Roberts was aware he was receiving the $1,000-a-month stipend on top of his $147,000 annual salary, “but he was not given the proper forms to sign that actually stated that.”
Gartner said it is not considered misuse of the car benefit.
“Supervisor Roberts also drove himself some of the time to meetings,” Gartner said. “He was not taken all of the time by people. I would say 10 to 15 percent of the time, if it was something close by to his home in Solana Beach, or Del Mar, and someone wasn’t available on his staff, he would take himself to those meetings.”
NBC7 surveyed the other four county supervisors who all said they also accept the car allowance. Supervisors Bill Horn, Ron Roberts, Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob said they rarely, if ever, go to events in any vehicle other than their own personal car.