Calif. Town Asks FEMA to Pay for New Chairs, Computers, Microwave

Lachlan Markay /

A California town spent tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds on miscellaneous office expenses and is attempting to bill the federal government for the costs, according to a federal watchdog’s report.

In the wake of a damaging flood, the town of San Anselmo spent taxpayer funds ostensibly marked for disaster relief on a host of purchases unrelated to the flood, including new computers, monitors, office supplies, telephones, and even a microwave, according to the report (embedded below), published Friday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Inspector General.

San Anselmo even used taxpayer dollars to buy a set of stack chairs – for more than $8,500.

Now the government of San Anselmo is trying to convince FEMA to reimburse the town for the expenses, which involved “new equipment not damaged by the disaster,” the report notes.

San Anselmo received $830,672 in FEMA disaster aid following the flooding of the nearby San Anselmo Creek. The flood damaged City Hall, San Anselmo’s Town Council building, and its police station.

The town spent all of the allocated grant money, and has requested that FEMA provide reimbursement for an additional $769,105 in supposedly disaster-related expenses.

The Inspector General recommended that FEMA reject the request for additional reimbursements, based on the nature of some of the expenditures and the town’s general inability to properly document its expenses.

“We were unable to verify the validity and supportability of the $1,599,777 in disaster costs the Town charged to Project 3625 and is claiming as part of a first appeal,” the IG report explains.

“The claim includes costs that are unsupported or ineligible for PA funding, and the Town’s records were insufficient to provide an audit trail in support of the claim,” the report adds. “As a result, we question the Town’s claim in its entirety.”

Among San Anselmo’s more egregious expenditures were a host of purchases that had nothing to do with equipment damaged by the flood, including:

The town also spent about $55,000 in work that, while related to the flood, was not permitted under the terms of the FEMA grant.

FEMA IG on San Anselmo grant by

(Photo credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)