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Time, Place, and Manner

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County Board President doesn't want credit where credit is due

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Having an employer issued credit card is a responsibility, and not just because TILA can make you personally liable for charges if it gets stolen. As the economy tightens, expense accounts get monitored more closely, and everyone looks for ways to cut costs. Someone is always watching. Especially if your job puts you in the public eye. Especially if your job that puts you in the public eye is a supervisory position. Especially if your supervisory position that puts you in the public eye is a publicly elected political position with a salary paid by taxpayers. Meet George Shirakawa Jr., Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President, at least for now.

Apparently, Shirakawa does a lot of traveling for Santa Clara County- or on their dime. He’s also cloned himself so he can be in two places at once. Wait. Is that right? News reports indicate that on multiple occasions, Shirakawa has been in one place, and his county credit card has been used somewhere else. We’re not talking a “he’s in the office and sends an intern out for office supplies” kind of thing. More of a “he’s California but his card is being used in D.C.” type situation. Is he the victim of identity theft? Did Professor McGonagall lend him her TimeTurner? In his sleep does an alter-ego take over, flying around the country setting up underground boxing franchises with the aim of turning them in to an anti-consumerist terrorist organization?  Or is he just an idiot? The last one appears most likely, and Shirakawa looks more like Robert Paulson than Tyler Durden.

This year, his card has paid $95 for a staff lunch while he was in a two day conference over 100 miles away.  On a trip to D.C., it paid for: five nights at a downtown hotel for a conference, including the two nights before the conference began, the room he upgraded room to on the third night of his stay that cost twice as much as his original, and the fifth night, when he was back in California and gave the room to someone else;  cab rides in D.C. after he had landed back in California; and a single meal for 3 that cost more than his per diem for the entire trip. Definitely not Tyler Durden, because he gets his meals for free.

It’s difficult to have sympathy for someone who’s made such a painfully obvious paper trail- and by difficult, we mean we don’t have any. This is the electronic age. What has popular television taught us, if not that your credit card use can always be used to track you down?

How is Shirakawa explaining these charges and defending himself? He’s calling it a “political lynching.” Bold language. Sort of. Except it isn’t. Any time an elected official gets caught in the act and doesn’t have a real defense, they blame it on politics. It’s like a defense attorney whose client is caught on tape committing an offense being asked for a comment. The only thing to say is something like, “My client’s story has yet to be told.” Of course, what goes unsaid at the end of that sound bite is, “I just haven’t made it up yet…”

Shirakawa isn’t the only moron in Santa Clara County. What about the rest of the Board of Supervisors that elected him as President? What about the people who voted him into office?  Four years ago he failed to file a campaign finance form to run for the same office he holds now. Rumor has it he’s filed for bankruptcy. And by “rumor” we mean we’re pretty sure bankruptcy filings are something you can check, but we’re just not gonna.

If the guy has been a bad money manager for years, why wasn’t someone paying closer attention? Why wasn’t someone looking into his proposed expenses and itinerary? And while they’re answering questions, maybe they can tell us what he was actually supposed to put on that credit card? And also what the County Board of Supervisors does, aside from look to Shirakawa as their leader?

In addition to all of that, the County is paying him a cool $143,000 a year for this barely part time position. They’ve had 48 meetings so far this year, with 2 coming up in December. We’ll estimate each of those meetings to be 3 hours long- sure it’s a bit generous, but, hey, we’re kind people- and that get us to 150 hours a year.  There are seasonal retail employees putting in more hours from November to January than the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors spends in meetings all year.  And at least we know what the girl in the shoe department at Macy’s does. And you can bet no one gave her a company issued credit card. (Unless she applied for one as a customer so she could get 15% off all of those sweet shoes she spends her day with, in addition to her associate discount).

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