SANDAG spent taxpayer funds on lavish dining, investigative journalist Jennifer Bowman finds

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A recent investigation by inewsource, a nonprofit newsroom bringing investigative journalism to San Diego County, uncovered that staff at the San Diego Association of Governments used taxpayer funds to lavish in upscale dining.

At least $320,000 of the spending spree was used to pay for high-end dining for SANDAG staff members, most of the meals taking place during non-working hours.

Inewsource found that SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata was one of the organization’s most frequent patronizers of local restaurants, charging $17,000 in meals over about two years.

Some months, Ikhrata charged the agency more than a dozen times for restaurant visits.

The CEO’s salary and benefits add up to more than $580,000 which Ikhrata has had since late 2018.

Inewsource Investigative Reporter Jennifer Bowman broke the story Thursday and joined KUSI’s Logan Byrnes on “Good Evening San Diego” to discuss details of her investigation.

The information just came out of a routine audit of SANDAG, which revealed some questionable purchases at restaurants, prompting inewsource to ask for the records, Bowman explained.

Gift card purchases were found among the spending, which auditors have now recommended putting a stop to, Bowman said.

Auditors could not even determine the full amount of improper spending to a lack of complete documentation (receipts), added Bowman.

Categories: Good Evening San Diego, KUSI, Local San Diego News, Politics