Stiles: Facts fuzzy in budget hike

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The Chronicle‘s Matt Stiles fills in the latest details in the bonusgate scandal. Here are a few highlights from his reporting:

The city office where four employees received unauthorized bonuses saw a 25 percent increase in its budget this fiscal year — an appropriation that city officials haven’t fully detailed.

The glare of publicity about the $130,000 incentive payments to workers in the Office of Mayor Pro Tem has drawn attention to the budget, which was included in a larger pool set aside for the 14 City Council members.

The City Council approved an increase from $260,000 to $326,000 for the pro tem office. And that was only half of the $122,000 increase the office requested.

Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, who as mayor pro tem oversees the office, and top members of Mayor Bill White’s administration, which produced the council budgets, didn’t respond in detail to repeated inquiries about the proposed and actual increases.

“The justification cited was increased costs of services and supplies,” said Frank Michel, White’s spokesman. “We don’t have any written documentation.”

It sounds as if someone was planning on spending beyond mere bonuses for a handful of rogue staffers. That certainly merits further investigation!

Mayor Pro Tem Alvarado returns to the “I’m a victim” defense of her lack of oversight:

Alvarado, who has said she can’t recall specific details about the increase, said Tuesday she was “frustrated” by the lack of information.

She also was concerned about whether media coverage of such questions might unfairly taint her.

“It’s my office. It’s my name,” she said. “I don’t know why this $50,000, or $60,000, is such a big issue.”

One can understand why Mayor Pro Tem Alvarado didn’t respond to detailed queries from Stiles. Every time she comments, she tends to make herself look worse.

UPDATE: Stiles posts coverage of today’s Council meeting.

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