Jul 09, 2020
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ASI budget review

Current ASI executives are planning to rewrite the budget for this year making changes based on spending habits of past executives and unforeseen expenses.

Between June 1 and Aug. 31, according to an analysis by The Collegian, ASI spent $3,564.80 on food alone. This cost includes food purchased during trips and also some purchases categorized as “discretionary” spending.

Food purchased during non-travel events during these months totals $1,381.92.

Lauren Johnson, the ASI vice president of finance, believes that the expenses were all valid, although ASI is not spending money on food like it was- — anymore.

“I’m confident that all purchases were made with the right intentions,” Johnson said.

Former ASI President Mackee M. Mason said executives would occasionally hold meetings outside of the office — over a lunch — because the business that needed to be taken care of could not be discussed in the office.

Mason had resigned because he was unable to properly fulfill his duties after being placed on probation for breaking the “substance free pledge” during an ASI retreat in Anaheim in July.

“It is common practice of any business,” Mason said in regard to the lunches purchased on ASI credit cards over the summer months. “When we did go out of the office, it was because it was absolutely necessary.”

Although it is in the ASI bylaws that all expenses turned in must include a receipt and an expense form, the documentation for some of the summer months have been misplaced, according to multiple sources.

There are no written justifications for the majority of the food purchased during these months.

Document Review

The Collegian originally requested documents from ASI on Sept. 12, including all expense forms and receipts from June 1 through Aug. 31 and an itinerary for the ASI retreat in Anaheim in July.

Those documents were received on Dec. 5 and Dec. 9; still excluded some of the receipts. Because of the missing receipts, it took more than nine weeks to compile the documents.

Pat Tift, administrative assistant for Administrative Services, said that Diners Club, the credit card company that ASI uses, could not retrieve the receipts.

“The receipts were never turned in to begin with,” Tift said.

However, Mason told The Collegian he did turn in the proper documentation over the summer. He said he is unaware what happened to the documents, but there was miscommunication between people in ASI.

“I turned in all the receipts,” Mason said. “They came up missing. I have nothing to hide.”

Mason also said that when he traveled he put the money on their credit cards instead of taking the per diem; the amount of money the university will reimburse for meals while traveling. He said it looks worse on the statements, but they actually spent less than if they had taken the per diem, which is $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, and $25 for dinner.

Mason believes that ASI spent a significant amount of money less than previous executives during the months he was in office.

“I didn’t need to get valet,” Mason said. “I didn’t need to get a five-star hotel. It didn’t make sense for me.”

While it has been practice for former presidents, Johnson and ASI President Graham Wahlberg said they are not spending money on food anymore.

Some of the money spent on food was categorized by accounting officials as “discretionary” spending even though there was no funding in that category for this year’s budget.

Johnson said that ASI is currently rewriting its budget to account for unforeseen (legal) expenses and will also be budgeting for discretionary spending.

Wahlberg said that this funding was supposed to be worked in, but was not done by former executives.
He said that meetings held outside of the office would not be happening anymore, however. “That’s just not going to happen under this leadership,” Wahlberg said.

Construction of new budget

Under the new budget that is being put together, Wahlberg said ASI will not be taking money away from the students; rather, they will be putting more money toward programs that will directly benefit students and the community.

He said that the money will be pulled from ASI’s reserves. Also, programs ASI is not continuing will no longer be funded. It is not yet clear what programs this funding will go to.

“We don’t really like to rewrite the budget if we don’t absolutely have to,” Wahlberg said. “But we want to give money back to the students.”

Currently, Wahlberg and Executive Vice President Beatriz Campuzano have not activated their executive credit cards. Wahlberg said he does not feel it is necessary.

Johnson said that the cards will eventually be activated. She said as of right now, her card is active. Also the card for Tara Powers-Mead, director of university affairs, is active.

Johnson said she is currently waiting on some figures for the new budget and then it will have to be passed by the Senate under the usual process. Once the Senate passes the budget, it will go to university President John D. Welty for approval. Johnson said she hopes to the have new budget by early next semester.

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