Santiago travels extensively on taxpayers’ dime


By Kathryn Reed

El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago likes to travel – at least based on the expenses she accrues.

For the 2012-13 fiscal year, Santiago had $12,755.99 worth of travel expenses that the county reimbursed her for.

The next highest figure was $1,509.33. That was for Supervisor Ron Mikulaco. However, only $637.80 was accrued after he was sworn in. He and Supervisor Brian Veerkamp have expenses for a conference that first-time supervisors attend after being elected but before being seated.

But these figures don’t necessarily reflect anyone’s total travel bills. Many elected officials sit on other boards where those agencies would foot the bill. And then sometimes special interest groups pick up some of the costs.

Norma Santiago travels more than any other El Dorado County supervisor. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Norma Santiago travels more than any other El Dorado County supervisor. Photo/Kathryn Reed

The latter was the case for Santiago when she went on a trip in July 2012 to Santa Fe, N.M. Several West Slope chambers of commerce went to the Urban to Rural Connection conference. The cost was $2,100 per person just for the four-day seminar. On documentation from the July 30, 2013, Board of Supervisors meeting handwritten is “$1,000 previously paid by 3rd party sponsor.”

But a sponsor or any monetary gift must be documented on what’s called Form 700. Santiago has not done so.

Supervisor Ray Nutting had a criminal complaint filed against him by the district attorney in part for not filing a Form 700 for money he received. District Attorney Vern Pierson did not return a phone call.

Santiago was not available for comment.

In addition to the questionable funds, Santiago violated county policy by asking for reimbursement after the fact and then months after the trip occurred.

On the July 30 Board of Supervisors’ consent agenda was an item to reimburse Santiago for her July 2012 trip to Santa Fe and her March 2013 trip to the National Association of Counties meeting in Washington, D.C. The board approved them 5-0.

The 2013 trip had been preapproved by the board, while the 2012 one had not.

Santiago traveled on the county’s dime to Washington a month later for the Capitol-to-Capitol event. That cost $4,104.10.

Judi McCallum, Santiago’s assistant, defended her boss, saying that she is the most sought after supervisor in El Dorado County for study missions, especially economic ones.

“They are excited to have Norma along. It translates to opportunities and action here,” McCallum told Lake Tahoe News.

She added, “Sometimes access is everything and she is always knocking on doors.”

McCallum pointed out how access helped Meyers keep its speed limit below what Caltrans originally wanted it raised to.

But something like that would require a phone call, maybe a trip to Marysville where the Caltrans district office is, or at best a trip to Sacramento. It really had nothing to do with spending taxpayer dollars, but more to do with Santiago just doing her job as a county supervisor.

McCallum said Santiago has been able to bring back dollars to the county – not just spend them. But she did not have specifics to share.


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Comments (24)
  1. sailor1 says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    surprise, surprise! You mean all elected officials are not clean and honest in the land of Oz?

  2. JohnnyGP says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I do not know Norma nor the requirements of her job, but it would be nice to have article written in a more objective manner trying to provide both sides of the story. Granted it seems Norma was not available for comment, but the clearly anti-Norma tone lends to question how hard did they try to get a comment. My guess is this is another example of the stupid Republican/Democrat refusal to work together and sling mud whenever possible.

    This article belongs in the Opinion section, not the Featured News section. What happened to objective news reporting so the reader can form their own opinion?

    Am I off here?

  3. Lisa says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I agree completely with Johnny. I don’t know Norma but this seems very slanted and kinda slanderous. Very personal attack.

  4. Steve says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    $12,000 worth of travel expenses… really? That seems like very little. I know it compares high to Ron so I did a quick search on the internet for County Supervisor Travel Expenses and $12,00 is nothing for a County as large as El Dorado. $12,000 was about the least I could find as most were in the $40 – $50K range. I agree this article seems a little vindictive. Now I want to research the amount of dollars she has brought back into the county as mentioned in the article as a good reporter would have done.

  5. Doggy says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Norma’s travel expenses are TEN times higher than other sups, she didn’t report it correctly, (could be a felony or misdemeanor for which they are accusing other elects for violating), expenses werer approved in violation of policy, she’s not been forthcoming, and fails to explain to the voters why she is using public money for traveling for which there is little if any return, so says this article.

    There’s a saying in the legal world, when the facts are not on your side, attack the prosecuter, when the truth is not on your side attack the witnesses, and when you’re up that creek and nothing else fails, attack those who write about it.

    LTN is telling the facts, comparing those facts to other situations so we can see if Norma’s use of public money is standard practice or out of the ordinary, and reporting that Norma’s got nothing to say about it. Attacking LTN doesn’t change the story but deflects attention from the facts, a common practice.

    Back to the facts…. Norma is traveling too much on our dime. Maybe she’d like to answer a few questions.

  6. gettinthere says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I believe Supervisors are provided a very nice car allowance, or it is part of the large package they get to run their office.
    But Supervisor has been using a County vehicle three days a week for several weeks. We can only hope she is reimbursing the County 3/5 of her car allowance for those weeks. Possibly she has been borrowing the car from Environmental Management because the tag is expired on her personal Ford, (Sept. 2012). I think she needs to rethink some of her travel choices.

  7. ljames says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    diddo about not knowing Norma Santiago and the required or expected scope of her work – but this article reads like some gossip column piece and uses some rather poor thinking (it is irrelevant that she travels more than anyone else on the board or that she travels a lot on taxpayer money; it is an inuendo, meant to imply wrong doing, certainly not suported with any facts presented in the article and certainly not supported by any statement that someone was “unavailable for comment” (e.g., there is no indication of how, when, where or under what circumstances comment was solicited). Yes an on-line vehicle for Lake Tahe news is a great idea and it provides some readily accessible information, but like most on-line writing, journalism it aint! It’s become a poorly disguised blog. In fact, I think faux news hurts our community and its getting close to where folks should think about whether or not to continue supporting it by even subscribing. I know I am pretty close to thinking its a waste of my valuable time.

  8. Steve says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Another government legislator simply living it up at the public trough while taxpayers are too busy working their tails off at real jobs, just to make ends meet and pay the bills. Taxpayers pick up the tab no matter which cup the white ball ends up under. No better services were provided after county supervisors voted themselves a huge pay raise several years ago.

  9. Passion4Tahoe says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I agree with Ijames – this publication lacks credibility with me — there is an obvious bent against all things government without sufficient facts. The following is a quote attributable to the publisher taken from a recent article involving public land adjacent to her property which states,

    “I went out front when I saw them standing around like most government workers, just staring and not doing anything. Reminded me of Caltrans. But I digress.”

    Really? “Most” government workers? Nothing more than a bent opinion.

    I have had a personal, private conversation in the past with this publisher wherein public employees were painted in a negative light with a very broad brush without facts, and that negativity is becoming more and more obvious each day.

    Credible news involves objective reporting and I don’t find that here, so I will no longer be reading the Lake Tahoe News.

  10. dumbfounded says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Could these expenses have anything to do with her representing the district that is the farthest from Placerville? A little more information would make this article a bit more relevant. Just sayin’.

  11. Bob says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I’ll be glad when she’s out of office. Why everyone kisses her big butt is beyond me.

  12. Tahoe Wolfe says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    I know Norma and she can get things done, which is why she was voted to go on these trips by our elected officials. Thank God she takes the time away from family in Tahoe to go fight for us! Would you? If she’s the one selected to go to DC to represent So Lake Tahoe, of course her travel expenses will be more than others. I think there’s an agenda out there by some politician who wants her job or was upset that they didn’t go. How can we complain when we don’t know the details. It’s not a trip to Disneyland, people!

  13. Ted says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    The real tragedy is that right or wrong it will make no difference. No one will do any thing, read the comments the supporters challenge the article and the rest of us will just let it die. Its time to start electing people that actually know what they are doing and are focused on services. When was the last time you really saw any county or state official in the city?

  14. Bindspot3000 says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Is this a blog site or news site? The sporadic editorializing and loss of objectivity on LTN kind of kicks you between the eyes when it appears. I read thinking I am getting news and usually do, but then my head sinks into my hands when the blogger comes out.

    Yes, we need more investigative journalism and there isn’t a great model anywhere right now to pay for it without losing objectivity. Drudge report, etc. and mom-and-pops like LTN are the only things out there that dig deep for stories, but they seem to think they can only sell advertising if they add a snyde, nonobjective slant.
    In a town this small, I wonder how long advertisers will support a medium that keeps trading journalistic integrity for personal catharsis.

  15. WQ says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Telling that the admin hasn’t responded to any of the critiques posted by ljames, JohnnyGP, Passion4Tahoe. Those critiques are on point.

  16. tahoedad says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    If you want to be outraged by what your representatives are doing, shout from the rooftops about the trillions with a capital T of our money that has been wasted on two worthless wars over the last decade. Fulminate over the hundreds of billions in taxes that are dodged and subsidies received by the mega-corporations that buy the favor of politicians. Demand that your government stop spying on you, and focus instead on creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.

    Think about the last time you saw your “representative” in the U.S. Congress here at Tahoe, or what he is doing to help our community, district, country. What’s his travel budget? Then think about the content of this article, attacking a local public servant who goes non-stop for her constituents (whether you agree with her or not), and decide where you want to direct your indignation.

  17. Parker says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Ms. Santiago should be willing to explain to the taxpayers, those who picked up this bill, the excessive travel expense. If the story is incomplete according to some, blame Ms. Santiago for not answering questions!

    And Ms. McCallum, give me a break! I understand you’re in an akward position cause your boss won’t answer questions. But please, you’re trying to tell us that your boss is some super popular Supervisor that needs to do all this traveling to respond to the overwhelming demand? 10 times more popular than any other Supervisor?

  18. Alex Campbell says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    KAE Keep up reporting what is available to you. If she so desires, Madam Santiago has the availability of Lake Tahoe News at her disposal.

  19. callmejohnson says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Why don’t our elected officials respond to Kae’s inquiries? Too busy, something to hide, or who gives a darn, I will be soon termed out.

  20. Joe Boxer says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    Maybe, just maybe Kae is on to something. Why don’t elected officials respond? Arent they supposed to answer to the public they serve? Im sure Kae gave Ms Santiago time to respond before she published the story. Im sure that the 700 form is public knowledge, that anyone can look up for themselves as well. Why wasn’t that filed Ms Santiago?? The same form that Nutting didn’t file? WHY???? People get your heads out of the sand. So maybe the article wasn’t objective enough for you. Do you ever think that there is some serious corruption going on in this county??? Ya’ll have NO CLUE!!

  21. worldcycle says - Posted: August 21, 2013

    — “$1,000 previously paid by 3rd party sponsor.” — This should be transparent or has Norma finally succumbed to lobbyists or special interest groups? If so, time to move out our “Green Party” candidate and move in one we can expect this kind of behavior from. And yes, as an elected public official she should be “available for comment”

  22. Harry Segal says - Posted: August 22, 2013

    We have known Norma for over 25 years. During this time, we have had the privilege to interact with her on both personal and professional levels. She has always displayed the highest integrity. We believe she is a devoted public servant who works tirelessly to serve her constituents and is an honorable, trustworthy individual. We thank Norma for her service.

    Jan Halpern Segal
    Harry Segal

  23. Justice says - Posted: August 23, 2013

    The amounts aren’t the big issue, if she failed to disclose on forms signed under penalty of perjury, it is the issue. This might go back a ways it looks like. These 700 forms are there to try to keep public office holders accountable. Nutting failed to disclose, until caught, he was taking public grant income after being involved it is reported in voting to fund the grants and he had/has unreported rental income which ties into everything else he was up to. So failure to report is a big issue and if she hasn’t been paying attention to the Nutting case then she should know better.

  24. ljames says - Posted: August 23, 2013

    “Im sure Kae gave Ms Santiago time to respond before she published the story. ”

    and why is that?