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Chen, Barrows, Edwards Travel Expenses Called Into Question

Many of the lavish trips were taken during Carol Chen’s term as Mayor.

By Brian Hews

A LCCN examination of 2009-2012 City Council travel documents shows Cerritos council-members Carol Chen and Bruce Barrows, along with Jim Edwards, reporting extremely questionable and expensive charges for travel, hotel fees, and dining costs.

In an era of economic collapse and belt tightening where the council-members were asking the unions not to take pay raises and cutting city positions, then Mayor Carol Chen, Councilman Bruce Barrows Councilman Jim Edwards were taking expensive, lavish trips and dining on Foie Gras and $62 steaks.

In two 2010 trips (January and March), the well-travelled Cerritos trio of elected officials set off to Washington DC and racked up more than $12,000 in hotel fees alone.

Edwards, Chen and Barrows dined at such high end places as the Prime Rib Restaurant spending over $600 on one dinner alone, city records obtained by LCCN confirmed. Among the charges were a $68 steak, a $42 prime rib, and over $65 in desserts.

During the same trip, the three also feasted on a $275 dinner at TenPenn, located on Pennsylvania Avenue and a $257 dinner at the Ocenaire, where one dish, a halibut and steak plate, cost $65.

See documents here.

In August 2010, Chen, Barrows, and Edwards, along with all five Fine Arts and Historical Commissioners traveled to the Loveland Sculpture Show in Colorado. Travel and hotel fees totaled over $8,000. The show’s website describes “thousands of art lovers and collectors from around the country and beyond, come together to enjoy and acquire the work of premier sculptors during this three-day outdoor sculpture show.”

They dined at The Canyon Chophouse spending over $375. Meals included $40 steaks, and $38 crab cakes. Another night they spent over $260 for dinner eating wild salmon and prime rib. Six other meals averaged $100 each.

See documents here.

In May of 2010, Chen, Barrows, and Edwards traveled to Las Vegas staying at the Aria. Receipts show a $348 dinner on May 23 and a $379 dinner on May 24. Meals included a $50 steak, a $54 mixed grill plate, three $40 filets and $18 French fries.

See documents here.

In 2011, when Carol Chen was Mayor, council-members took a total of ten trips.

In March, they again flew back to Washington D.C. and later traveled to Sacramento.

In May, Barrows went on four trips, one to Palm Springs and three to Las Vegas, with Chen attending two. In Palm Springs, staying at the Waldorf, they dined on Foie Gras, $40 crab legs, $26 dover sole, Ahi Tartar and $26 in desserts.

See documents here.

Further examination indicates no boundaries for spending on other items such as airfare and mileage.

Cerritos council-members receive a $400 per month car allowance. Yet in documents submitted by Chen and Barrows, both received reimbursement for mileage at a rate of .50 cents per mile when driving to San Diego, Santa Barbara, and other trips.

Further documents show a disregard for keeping other costs low. On several occasions, airfare to Sacramento cost the city over $420, with personnel booking the “anytime” fare on Southwest which is traditionally the highest rate. The city paid $410 for flights to Washington D.C. that same year.

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11 Responses to Chen, Barrows, Edwards Travel Expenses Called Into Question

  1. Mr. Cerritos Reply

    February 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Pertaining to my above comment I made, it has come to my attention that I have been corrected. Denise Grestner retired from her full time position in 2011 as City of Cerritos Finance Manager within the month of her retiring she was hired back by the City of Cerritos with a new classification, Finance Director, where she was able to make her own schedule. In 2012 Mrs. Grestner took a retirement lump sum for over $450,000 from CALPERS.

  2. Cynthia Reply

    February 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Do we know how much they spent locally on food? It would be interesting to know what they are spending on local businesses Versus out of city. Do they expect donations and discounts from our struggling businesses or are they even shopping here?

  3. Mr.Cerritos Reply

    February 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Great job LCCN on exposing these greedy councilmembers. Again, the residents, the employees and visitors that come through the City of Cerritos deserve better. The City of Cerritos should be a model city, all this information of the City of Cerritos City Council and the City of Cerritos Management being fiscally irresponsible. Now, if you can expose how someone or someone’s can make a $17.1 million error to the budget and no one be held accountable. How about asking the city manager, and the finance manager who will be accountable. The Finance Manager Denise Grestner retired from her full time position in 2010 and got hired back by the City of Cerritos within the same month for part time Finance Manager. In 2011 she took her retirement pay from CalPers and she continues to work part time (making her own work schedule).

  4. Nancy N. Reply

    February 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    I agree with Truth, these council members have become “BLIMPS” on our bucks or I should say on our BIG bucks. Obviously,these chosen few are flying high,eating like hogs and sleeping in the finest five star hotels. We the stupid tax payers need to wake up,it’s time to say enough is enough!
    Be careful who you vote for this March election.

  5. Jay Gray Reply

    February 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Mayor Edward will leave next month with lifetime benefits and it seems lots of travel mileage and obviously fine dining under his belt. Yet, he’s leaving Cerritos residents a Performing Arts Center that runs nearly $6 Million in the red each year and a Magnolia Power Plant that runs nearly $3 Million in the red.

    Jim Edwards’s legacy to Cerritos, after 8-years on council, isn’t the 1st CEB. His legacy is the close to $70 Million dollars in losses by just two programs — the Performing Arts Center and the Magnolia Power Plant.

  6. McMahon, J. Reply

    February 8, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Comment
    By: Jim McMahon, 37 Yr Resident.

    My opine; lack of participation by the residents and for over usage of voting the racial card, has SELF SEEDED our city with the over flow of BELL POLITICS. If the city was truly diversified by globals and HEARTLAND OF AMERICA, the residents would be more aware of this abuse by power & SELF POLICE by recall and voting by integrity ethics and not by unions or race.

    Not surprised at all, as many factors to blame, as these built in ((QUESTIONABLE PERKS)0 have been haunting the books, for more then 40 yrs in Cerritos Disneyland Government. These come to mind after readying this great article by LCCN:

    • Greedy Elected-appointed.
    • Public would be shocked of all the} VOUCHERS-REBATES-SHADOW SALES DISCOUNTS-PRIVATE LOANS the CCC has received over the past 4 decades, to pimp the (3) Cerritos Malls.
    • Lack of in house Management by staff.
    • Story does not tell about all of the bed swamping / room sharing & pillow talking.
    • Disconnect between the Voters voice and the Council Sessions.
    • Poor CCC attendance by the 15,000 Cerritos Home and the 42,000 residents who live here and have to suffer services, because the City’s general funds are being drained.
    • Non searchable cities PDF on line.
    • Cities Budget is not user friendly, as accounting is carried over between budget items to demonstrate the low numbers and not the real numbers…..very clever way of non- transparency & spooking the public in to reading false accounting tables.
    • Ghost accounts by Accumulation of Traveling Points- Memberships.
    • Majority of this abuse started by former Mayors: Alex Benum and Berry Rabbit charades in the Desert; which BTW is still draining our reserves & created a divorce.
    • Story does not tell all of the indirect benefits and perks from vendors, passed on to many council persons personal life and shadow rebates to staffers home lifestyles.
    • Abuse of 2 term limit and returning for re-election.
    • Illegal usage of city owned equipment, taken abroad and used for personal gains with out consent.
    • European Trip to educate the council person and his spouse.
    • Rental clothes and supplemental spouse perks.
    • Does not talk about the drug bust inside City managers chambers.
    • Does not talk about the staffers/sheriffs accidents and casualty claims.
    • Lot of this is the result of the 2-3 hrs passing of the budget publically; as the annual budget needs to be publically gone thru line by line, over days, not hrs. Invite the CCC to re define the over usage of the word: (EXTENSIVE REVIEW).
    //JM 2/08/13

  7. The Truth Reply

    February 8, 2013 at 10:56 am

    …Among the charges were a $68 Kobe Beef steak, a $42 prime rib, and over $65 in desserts…

    No wonder Chen, Barrows and Edwards have gained so much fat during the past couple of years. It all MAKES SENSE NOW!

    I wonder if the District Attorney can launch an investigation into this? Didn’t some city officials up in the SG Valley get arrested a couple of months ago for misusing city travel policy?

  8. Jay Gray Reply

    February 8, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I noticed one receipt had written on it what looked like “OLDA,” were these council members doing OLDA/Maglev business on the city dime?

    Also, any information on council members using city credit cards for campaign expense? Sometime back a resident had told me they were asking to see receipts.

  9. Jay Gray Reply

    February 8, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Interesting…. I thought Kobe beef was illegal for import into the US between 2010-2012?

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