Days after the dismissal of Spokane’s city planning director for what was described as a misuse of city funds, Jan Quintrall, head of the city’s Business and Developer Services Division, spent more than $400 at the Spokane Club on lunch for a dozen city employees using a city credit card.
It was the third such known expenditure of the year for Quintrall, though the other two were less than half of what Quintrall spent for the “teambuilding” exercise in November.
Quintrall defended the purchases as within her discretionary budget as division head, which she said amounts to $2,000 a year. She noted that her division has an annual budget of $80 million and 270 employees.
“So really, this is a drop in the bucket,” she said. “These are things that are done on a regular basis in the private sector.”
City Council members, however, did not see it that way.
“This is just not a good use of taxpayer money,” Councilwoman Karen Stratton said. “The word that comes to my brain is hypocritical.”
Councilman Mike Allen called the expenditures “mind-boggling … unbelievable and unfathomable if in fact true.”
Councilwoman Candace Mumm was “quite surprised.”
“I don’t think most people get to have meals at the Spokane Club,” she said. “That’s a special expense.”
The $400 meal at the club, where Quintrall is a member and was once president of the board of trustees, was paid for with a city credit card and included 3 gallons of coffee for $114 and a gallon of hot tea for $38. Lunch was part of a six-hour meeting of planners at the city.
In August, Quintrall took the city’s “neighborhood plan group” to dinner at Burgundy’s at the Spokane Club, spending $180 of city funds on a tuna tartare appetizer, Kobe steak and goat cheese ravioli, among other items.
Another group under Quintrall, the “street strategy leadership group,” was treated to lunch at Burgundy’s in April. City Administrator Theresa Sanders attended the meeting, where lunch cost the city $170.
Quintrall said the off-site meetings are “pretty intense,” which is why she organizes them infrequently.
Comparing her expenditures to those of Scott Chesney, the city’s planning director who was forced from City Hall last fall in part for buying staff lunches, is like comparing “apples and aardvarks.”
“The big difference is they (Chesney’s lunches) were here (in City Hall), they were weekly, and that is a violation of city policy,” she said.
Quintrall noted that she pays out of her own pocket when she takes individual staff members to eat, an expense that totals about $1,000 a year.
“When I take a staff member to lunch, I pay,” she said. “I understand the city policy.”
Brian Coddington, the mayor’s spokesman, said Chesney’s spending was part of a larger trend, which included purchasing $700 in personalized hard-hats for his employees. Mayor David Condon officially accepted Chesney’s resignation two days before Quintrall’s $400 lunch.
Mumm said city employees should stay within the state’s daily per diem rates, which are set at $18 for lunch and $28 for dinner in Spokane County. She noted that council members chip in $5 a month to keep coffee stocked in their office.
“We are very careful that we don’t use taxpayer money to pay for food,” she said. “I would hope the rest of the administration would follow suit.”
Stratton said she was disturbed by Quintrall’s spending.
“We have working families, low-income homeless, that just can’t afford to eat like this,” she said. “We have people who are sleeping in homeless shelters without beds. And we have somebody in a high position at the city spending money frivolously. … Homeless people can’t afford to buy Kobe steak and tuna tartare.”
Stratton said she planned to draft an ordinance preventing such expenditures and creating rules to ensure all city employees stay within the state’s per diem rates.
“I still think that’s too much,” she said. “If you make over a $100,000 a year and you want to take your staff out, I think that’s great. You take them out to pizza and you buy it yourself.”