When San Diego County Office of Education employees flew to Boston to learn more about a company they were considering doing business with, they didn’t need to worry about the bill.
The company paid for their flight to Boston. It also paid for their hotel stay. And when one of the employees, Dan Puplava, picked out a bottle of wine from Napa Valley over dinner, he wasn’t really sure who paid, but believes it was either the company or its marketing company. He thought the bottle cost $400.
“Here the bottle of wine would be, like, 150 bucks,” Puplava later testified. “Out there it was outrageous.”
Puplava manages a program that helps school district and charter school employees invest for their retirements. Four years ago, he and supervisor Diane Crosier made the visit to Aviva, a company they were weighing whether to do business with, to learn more about its investment products.
It wasn’t their only trip. Between 2006 and 2008, the employees repeatedly took trips to visit companies the program worked with or was considering working with, paid for by those same companies.