Funds fodder for mudslinging

While funding for  Muni and road resurfacing, comes up short, members of the San Francisco agency that approves funding for transportation-related projects is spending thousands of dollars on furniture, cell phones, computers and other office supplies.

The 11 elected members of the Board of Supervisors also sit on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The  agency allocates the voter-approved half-cent sales tax to transportation projects. including the purchase of Muni buses, road resurfacing, bike lanes and road safety projects.

Each authority board member is authorized to spend as much as $2,000 annually for office needs, can elect to receive a monthly $45 commuter check, are paid $100 per attended meeting and can be reimbursed for authority-related travel. The authority meets about four times a month.

In addition to the $2,000 the board is allotted for administrative costs from the CTA, they also receive $5,000 for similar purposes as supervisors.

The $2,000 expense accounts have raised the ire of the Mayor’s Office, which has dubbed the total $22,000 pot a “slush fund.” What is not spent is put back into the CTA’s budget each year.

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said the supervisors’ spending “doesn’t make sense.”

“I don’t understand why money that is supposed to go to roads is going to couches and cell phones for members of the Board of Supervisors,” Ballard said.

This is not the first time this year that the spending of transportation-related dollars has become fodder for political mudslinging. Some supervisors have railed against Mayor Gavin Newsom for using Muni dollars to pay for salaries of his staffers. Newsom defended the practice by saying they work on transit-related issues.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick asked the city attorney to draft a city charter amendment that would prohibit the mayor from using MTA money to pay his staff members.

During the last four fiscal years, McGoldrick has spent the most authority dollars with $10,835 and Supervisor Chris Daly has spent nearly $8,000. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said there was nothing wrong with the expenditures.

“These are incidental expenses associated with running a large agency,” Peskin said. “For instance, you are talking to me on a cell phone the TA paid for.” The phone was a Palm 700 Treo purchased in Sept. 2006 for $542.49.

José Luis Moscovich, executive director of the authority, said the board member’s expenditures are “very small expenses.” He said to suggest it’s a slush fund is “preposterous.” Moscovich noted that a Muni bus costs $700,000 and a subway station up to $300 million.

Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the public policy think-tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, said the authority is “highly ethical” and “there is not a problem related to expense accounts.”

Newsom has placed on the November ballot a measure that would shake up the authority’s governing board by reducing the 11 seats to five, with two supervisorial seats, two mayoral and one city treasurer.

Official spending

The 11 members of the Board of Supervisors’ — who act as San Francisco County Transportation Authority commissioners — use of available expense accounts while sitting on the authority during the past four fiscal years. (Office expenses include furniture, equipment and cell phones.)

Sean Elsbernd
Office expenses $151.06
Pay for meetings $8,800
Commuter Checks $2,070
Travel $0
Total $11,021.06

Bevan Dufty
Office expenses $4,166.60
Pay for meetings $9,300
Commuter Checks  $2,160
Travel $0
Total $15,626.60

Tom Ammiano
Office expenses $3,690.37
Pay for meetings $8,300
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $1,684.31
Total $15,834.68

Carmen Chu*
Office expenses $1,999.88
Pay for meetings $1,600
Commuter checks $405
Travel $0
Total $4,004.88

Chris Daly
Office expenses $7,991.71
Pay for meetings $8,500
Commuter checks $0
Travel $0
Total $16,491.71

Sophie Maxwell
Office expenses $977.08
Pay for meetings $8,900
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $1,757.57
Total $13,794.65

Aaron Peskin
Office expenses $1,164.23
Pay for meetings $8,700
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $0
Total $12,024.23

Ross Mirkarimi
Office expenses $5,138.46
Pay for meetings $7,000
Commuter checks $1,890
Travel $0
Total $14,028.46

Michela Alioto-Pier
Office expenses $3,941.21
Pay for meetings $5,500
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $0
Total $11,601.21

Gerardo Sandoval
Office expenses $3,659.56
Pay for meetings $7,500
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $380
Total $13,699.56

Jake McGoldrick
Office expenses $4,341.49
Pay for meetings $11,700
Commuter checks $2,160
Travel $6,493.80
Total $24,695.29

Note: List includes only current sitting supervisor on the SFCTA who served on the authority board during FY05-FY08

*Chu was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in 2008

Source: SFCTA

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