Consumer Watchdog is calling on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the district attorneys for Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties to launch an investigation over the potential theft of public funds.
The call follows a report in Politico that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara billed the state for his Sacramento apartment.
“We are deeply troubled to report that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara appears to have committed crimes punishable by up to four years in prison by using public funds for his personal benefit and fraudulently representing expenses for his second home in Sacramento as a legitimate public expense,” Consumer Watchdog’s president Jamie Court and litigation director Jerry Flanagan wrote to the prosecutors.
“Politico.com reported that Commissioner Lara received taxpayer-funded reimbursements for his rental apartment in Sacramento at a cost of between $570 and $700 per month. Though Commissioner Lara refused to be interviewed, Department spokesperson Michael Soller told Politico.com that Lara had retained the same apartment in Sacramento that he used as state senator,” the letter noted.
Soller couldn’t be reached for further comment for this article.
Lara recently offered an apology for accepting campaign contributions from the insurance industry in another matter. Consumer Watchdog has since demanded he produce public records related to meetings with insurance industry representatives who reportedly gave him the campaign contributions.
The letter notes that the CDI claims that since Lara spends roughly eight days in Sacramento per month he is able to charge the California taxpayers $95 per day for lodging, but Lara’s reimbursement records from the State Controller’s Office fraudulently accounted for the monthly cost of the apartment as “railroad fare.”
Soller explained that those entries actually refer to the cost of Lara’s apartment and were entered in a transportation category because the “accounting department didn’t have a field to enter the lodging reimbursement for this purpose.”
The letter concludes:
“The public has a right to know what really happened. Only an investigation by the office of a public prosecutor can compel answers about whether the insurance commissioner engaged in criminal activity. No public official should be above the law. All state workers should know that every state employee, including elected officials, are held accountable to the law.”
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