Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Charlotte Shultz's City Hall Soirees Cost Taxpayers $955,000?

It's taken a few public records requests and poring over IRS 990s, but I've finally received proof that the City foots at least part of the bill for the annual diplomats' holiday ball Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz throws at City Hall.

The City Controller's office yesterday provided me with the screenshots showing $760,000 taxpayer dollars have flowed over the last three years to the SF Host Committee and $195,000 to the SF Special Events Committee. Both committees are headed by Shultz. The mayor's staff told me last month that they had no public records about costs for the consular parties.

Technically, that's true but the 2010, 2011 and 2012 tax filings for the host committee, and the 2009 and 2010 filings for the special events committee show that Shultz's nonprofits received robust government grants. So, the City money is allocated via the General Services Administration to the nonprofits and they in turn pay for the City Hall parties.

Here's what the mayor's office said to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force in response to my complaint that no public records were located regarding the cost of the most recent diplomat's soiree:

[T]wo nonprofits fund events hosted by the Office of Protocol, including the December event to which Mr. Petrelis refers in his first request. Therefore, the Mayor’s Office does not have an itemized breakdown of the December 11 event because the nonprofits, not the City, paid for the event.

In January, Shultz's deputy Matthew Goudeau, whose title is Director of Protocol and who occupies an office at City Hall, said:

In June 1998, voters approved Proposition F, prohibiting City funding of the Office of Protocol. The same proposition permits the Office of Protocol to continue to operate paid for by private donations and in accordance with the laws and practices as of October 17, 1989.

Despite that proposition, City funds make their way into Shultz's hand. Goudeau's position is actually part of the San Francisco International Airport department and is paid $113,900. In other words, Shultz and her City Hall pals have created ways to keep their party machine going and taxpayers underwrite their soirees. Shultz's guest list for the December 2013 consular shindig included 100 friends of her socialite best buddy DeDe Wilsey.

The SF Chronicle's stenographer for Shultz and the moneyed elite, Catherine Bigelow, gushed about the 2009 party, and snapped this photo during the fun:

Days before Protocol Chief Charlotte Shultz hosted her holiday party for members of the San Francisco Consular Corps and Host Committee, she wished for a bit of snow. [...] But Shultz was already prepared with some white magic: she’d decorated the lawn of City Hall with piles of the fresh, fluffy stuff with an assist from a snow-making machine. [...] A snowman was built in Charlotte's snow on the lawn of City Hall.

Wouldn't surprise me to learn that City funds were funneled to the host committee that year and were used to pay for the snow-making machine and the lavish displays and costumes of performers paid to entertain the crowd. I've filed another public records request with the City Controller for additional payments to Shultz's two nonprofits.

Numerous vmails left for the contact listed on the nonprofits' IRS 990s, a Pam Miller of Menlo Park, have not been returned. I've requested communication with her over the questions I have about the $955,000 they have received in the last three years.

Yes, perhaps some of the money went for events and costs unrelated to the annual consular parties, and maybe a few private bucks went toward the parties, but I can't report on how the host committee and special events committee used their taxpayer dollars if they don't answer my questions. One way to find is to examiner the actual contracts between the City and the committees, so a public records request for those contracts has been filed with the General Services Administration.

Of course, we could also do with a big dose of voluntary transparency from Shultz and Goudeau, and their boss Mayor Ed Lee about all this, but we're more likely to have genuine snow fall on the City than these three public servants sharing answers with me.

Follow the money!


Michael Strickland said...

Good job.

Michael Petrelis said...

Thanks for noticing my accountability work. I wish more folks cared about how City dollars are spent by Charlotte Shultz.