CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - There were other items on the city councils agenda Wednesday night but, in the eyes of the public there was only one.
Cathedral City residents filled the council's chamber Wednesday night, voicing their varied opinions. Some even yelling at council members, prompting a quick recess so emotions could mellow.
Councilman Greg Pettis is accused of misusing city funds by abusing travel expenses. But, Pettis says after the city eliminated their Washington D.C. lobbyist saving the city over $100,000 a year, the trips were necessary and continue to bring millions into the valley.
Pettis says, "I was able to assist in the lobbying for the Date Palm interchange as well as all five interchanges that are under construction right now. That's tens of millions of dollars that we we're able to bring in."
Over the last 5 years, Pettis was accused of spending more than what was budgeted, but the City Manager's report shows the travel budget was actually in a surplus over that period. Council members backed Pettis' travel, saying they forfeited their personal unused travel budget to help send Pettis on those trips.
However several members of the public said some of the expenses we're excessive and unnecessary for the purpose of those trips. Pettis says whether the trips were worth the cost is a difference of opinion.
Pettis also says the accusations of unaccounted expenditures are not true, which was reinforced by the City Manager. "Everything that was spent has been accounted for," Pettis told us. "We get audited by our own internal auditors, by the State of California, by Caltrans. So do all these other agencies so we have to make sure that all the money is accounted for. We make it clear that every dollar spent, is spent appropriately."
Pettis was also accused of getting special treatment when he was given time to repay a bounced check to the city. He described the situation, "There was a reimbursement check that was issued to me by the Southern California Association of Government. I presumed it was a reimbursement to me. About a month later the city said, hey where's our money. It got crossed."
The money was then paid back over the next two months with interest. Pettis said the check bounced because he was going through a personal bankruptcy, which he said he was very transparent about.
The council went on to criticize the negative publicity and slander created by the initial report, with Mayor Kathy DeRosa urging citizens to say positive things about the city if they wanted to portray a positive image.
The City Manager's travel budget report will be released as soon as it becomes available to us.