The State Worker

California lawmakers question cost of tax board members’ offices

Scaffolding surrounds the Board of Equalization building as a precaution against falling glass in Sacramento on Monday, June 12, 2014. Four of the board’s five governing members have been leasing off-site office space at a cost to taxpayers of about $740,000 per year.
Scaffolding surrounds the Board of Equalization building as a precaution against falling glass in Sacramento on Monday, June 12, 2014. Four of the board’s five governing members have been leasing off-site office space at a cost to taxpayers of about $740,000 per year. Sacramento Bee file

The California Board of Equalization’s spending came under legislative scrutiny Tuesday, with lawmakers questioning the cost of separate office space for the tax overseer’s leadership.

How is it cost-effective to be leasing as opposed to being in one unified location?

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank

The Sacramento Bee reported that four of the board’s five governing members were leasing office space at a cost to taxpayers of about $740,000 per year. The organization’s main building in downtown Sacramento has fallen into disrepair and struggled with issues such as mold, falling glass panels, leaks and bat infestations.

During an Assembly budget subcommittee hearing Tuesday, Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Los Angeles, repeatedly pressed board officials on why members were working out of different offices, saying he had considered moving to slash the $740,000 lease price from the organization’s budget.

“How is it cost-effective to be leasing as opposed to being in one unified location that is owned and upgraded by the state or by the agency?” Nazarian asked. “My focus isn’t (repairing) the building,” he added. “It’s the cost of the ongoing leasing outside of the building.”

$130,000Approximate total, with installation, spent on office furniture for BOE member Jerome Horton

With the board’s main building over capacity, Executive Director David Gau said, the organization relies on using off-site offices. He said there was no plan to return the board members to the building, a situation that some newer board members inherited.

“The existing space that I moved into was already there,” said board member Diane Harkey, who was elected in 2014.

The Bee also found that Board of Equalization member Jerome Horton spent $118,000 on high-end office furniture such as $1,172 chairs and a $2,267 couch. The board reacted to the report by tightening its purchasing rules, but representatives faced more questions Tuesday about who approves spending.

“When can we expect a revision in policy?” asked Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

Any contract worth $1 million or more must go before the board for approval, Gau said. Harkey said members have already moved to receive information on contracts worth more than $50,000.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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