Next time California Treasurer Fiona Ma wants to “save money” on hotel rooms for the state, here’s a suggestion: Drive home.
Ma maintains it was her unchecked zeal for frugality that led her to frequently share hotel and other lodgings with two of her top aides, one of whom went on to accuse the treasurer of sexual harassment in the context of the unusually close quarters. Ma has denied the allegations in the lawsuit but failed to acknowledge that cohabiting with her subordinates constituted at best a serious lapse of judgment that can’t be blithely chalked up to fiscal conservatism.
The treasurer’s penny-pinching rationale is particularly flimsy given that most of the expenses were for rooms in Sacramento while Ma and her aides lived in the Bay Area. Facing a similar situation with limited resources, plenty of the regular taxpayers who footed these bills might have spent a couple of hours on a freeway or train rather than pay for a hotel room — let alone make the dubious decision to shack up with an employee.
Ma commonly shared hotel rooms and other lodging with her staff, according to a Bee review of expense reports. They included her chief of staff, Genevieve Jopanda, and the former director of a committee administering affordable housing programs, Judith Blackwell, who sued the treasurer in July for alleged harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination.
A former assemblywoman and gubernatorial aspirant, Ma said in a statement to The Bee’s Editorial Board that sharing rooms was just one of many ways she has saved the state money during her political career, including carpooling and opting for less expensive hotels.
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