Councilman agrees to reimburse city - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Councilman agrees to reimburse city

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Posted: Saturday, September 22, 2007 2:43 am | Updated: 5:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Chandler Councilman Martin Sepulveda is offering to repay three years worth of personal cell phone calls he charged to the city, but it’s unknown how much that will be, because his billing records are unavailable.

Sepulveda agreed this week to reimburse the city $3,600 for calls made on his personal cell phone during the past year.

However, city officials don’t know how much his bills totaled for the prior two years because they are still combing through a Chandler warehouse searching for that information.

“Look, I want to do the right thing here,” he said. “Rather than trying to figure out which calls were personal and which for city business, I’m just going to pay the entire bill.”

Last week, the Tribune reported Sepulveda had charged about $3,700 on his city-issued credit card for cell phone bills and cell phone-related equipment such as an earpiece and a battery charger. So far he’s paid back about $600 of that, according to city records.

The rest of the money is expected be repaid later this week or early next week, said Jim Phipps, a spokesman for the city.

No formal agreement between the city and the councilman was available.

Since the Tribune story, the city has revamped the way it handles cell phone records. Now, any fees paid with taxpayer money must be delivered directly to the city. Under the old practice, bills were sent to the phone carrier — meaning city officials had no way of telling whether phones were used for personal or city-related business.

Sepulveda said he’s had the same cell phone plan and number for the past 10 years and takes personal, business and city-related calls. In previous interviews, he claimed most of his calls are related to city business.

There is no way to verify those statements because he has refused to turn over his call logs for public inspection. While other call logs for city-issued phones are considered public record, Sepulveda claims his are not because it’s his personal phone.

“Look, these were calls made on my personal phone and I have agreed to pay it back,” he said Thursday afternoon.

But the question of whether he should turn over the records has the Chandler city attorney, Mike House, searching for answers.

“I just can’t say right now,” House said. Because of prior case law restricting access to municipal e-mail accounts, he believes phone records for personal use are not public record.

Sepulveda, a real estate developer, started his second stint on the council in June 2004. He had previously served on the council from 1996 to 2000.

Phipps said records detailing how much the councilman charged the city between 2004 and 2006 would be available sometime next week.

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