What Andrea Merida Was Mis-Spending Our Tax Money On

( – promoted by c rork)

Now that Merida says she’s (maybe?) giving the $8,000 she overspent back to the district, I think it’s worth looking at just what she was spending that money on.

I was pretty busy yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to look at the records and weigh in, but I got a chance to take a look this afternoon. It’s pretty astounding.

Beyond the absurd $4,000 that she spent eating out (for perspective, that $11 in meals a day…except that she was dropping $60 a meal at fancy places like Euclid Hall) Here’s a quick look at stuff that caught my eye:

Business Expenses:

As Ed News reported, Merida paid for a fax service at $9.95 a month. It’s fairly unclear why this was thought to be necessary, and whether she was receiving substantial faxes. Why? Well probably because on her website, she doesn’t list a fax number that constituents can contact her at.

http://andreamerida.com/contact/

So, what was she using this fax number for? Not to mention, why did she get the premium plan?

http://www.rapidfax.com/landin…

Also, what is ‘Avangate’ and why did she spend $34.95 with them? From what I can tell, it’s some sort software sales company? What did this have to with “community outreach”?

http://www.avangate.com/affili…

Further, she listed a number of other expenses I find suspicious. For instance, she billed the district for 2 separate charges to godaddy.com, and a charge to campaignmonitor.com, which does web marketing stuff. Given the proximity of these charges to her job, I think there’s reason to be concerned. Finally, she registered a for a Vimeo plus account for $59.95. It’s hard to tell why she is using public money for it, as it’s mostly being used to tout outside political groups or launch various attacks? And she definitely hasn’t gotten her (our) money’s worth – she isn’t doing anything on it that you can’t do on the free version…

http://vimeo.com/andreamerida



Audible Audio Book Subscription:

Merida incurred charges for $14.95 every single month on the 20th of the month to “Audible NJ”, from November, 2010, through the end of this credit card report period that we have available (June). As was pointed out in the other thread, according to Audible’s website (audible.com), $14.95 is the same amount as a “gold” subscription to their audiobook service. It’s really unclear what Merida needed an audiobook subscription for that would be related to her job.

Barnes & Nobles Books:

Merida spent hundreds of dollars on books at Barnes and Nobles ($454.32, according to EdNews), including their online store. As another commenter mentioned, records of which books she bought online should still be available to her and she should disclose them to prove they were relevant to her position, as she claimed.

Telephone Issues:

According to a report from the Denver Paper, she had a cellphone bill of $2,134.04. It seems to me that’s a little bigger than a 1 person standard plan annually? Sounds more like a small family plan or something like that? What kind of plan is/was she billing DPS for?

Additionally, it’s mentioned that she had a vonage land line installed. On her website contact page, she lists her cellphone number. If that’s the number she was using for constituent services (and billing the district for), then why did she need a separate Vonage land line (at the cost of $410.38)?

Flowers for Jeannie Kaplan’s “Bday”:

Ednews got this wrong, they misread her handwriting. It says flowers for “Kaplan bday”, not baby. But that raises further questions: why did we pay $61.54 for a floral arrangement for Jeannie Kaplan?

Tech Supplies:

Merida appears to have bought a camera ($200, Anthony Camera) and made big payments to T-mobile ($205, for a new phone, apparently) and something called ‘Laptop Power’ ($105). Why is the district buying this stuff for her?

Wanton Fiscal Irresponsbility:

Merida racked up a lot of interest and late charges by carrying such a large balance on her credit card, which is further evidence of what many have suggested: she shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a budget. By the end of it, she’d racked up $62.74 in unnecessary interest fee charges and $30.05 in credit card fees (including late payment fees). That’s money that was just straight up wasted. She didn’t even get Wendy’s with it!

Denver Taxis and Car Rentals:

There are a number of charges on there that I thought were strange or curious for taxis and car rentals in Denver. One big reason they are strange is that they were juxtaposed with her charging the District for parking her car? I don’t know what the deal is with that because I don’t know what her car situation is but it seemed strange.

Anyway, these are a few of the things that I noticed with her credit card statements that seemed particularly shocking.

The whole Andrea Merida ride has been a massive distraction from the serious business of what the schools should being doing – educating our kids. It’s time for her to resign and put an end to this ugly soap opera. The fact that she got caught and is now giving back the money simply isn’t enough. She should never have been spending it on this stuff in the first place. It is common sense to know that you shouldn’t be billing the district for business expenses, your audible account, etc.  

80 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    (ComplicitCowgirl slinks away with tail between her legs, hoping mightily that someone, anyone, will write a diary about something else interesting enough for FP tonight)

    • Obvious Alias says:

      there would be an article by now about how terrible Coffman is in a futile attempt to make Joe Miklosi look viable…but they really hate Merida around here, so I would expect this to go on for some time.

      Oh and for what it’s worth, frontpaging her policy piece was totally appropriate.  Honestly it was interesting and had it been written by anyone else people would have fawned over it.

      • cdsmith says:

        Definitely, front paging a policy piece written by a politician willing to stick around and answer policy questions was WAY more than appropriate; it was some of the better content at Pols in a long time. Way to go, PC!

        My hope is that in the long run, certain people won’t be able to reshape Pols to only include content they agree with.

      • nancycronk says:

        Her unprofessionalism is what I have issues with.  

    • Ah Choo says:

      And one of the three diaries on this was written by you….

      What exactly is your problem?

      Besides, after the disgusting personal attacks on Pols contributors by DeFENSE Land, I think this community has gone pretty easy on Merida so far.  

      • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

        It was four diaries about Merida this week, actually, counting hers before the scandal broke. I don’t think any of them shouldn’t have been written/promoted, I’m just ready for someone to write about something else now.

        Wherefore art thou Go Raiders?

        • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

          They could.

          Also, misuse of wherefore is deliberate, before sxp jumps on me.

          • JeffcoBlue says:

            FPEs and commenters are the ones obsessed with Merida, not the Guvs. Your image makes it seem like they are the ones posting this stuff, and they are not. You are.

            A favored tactic of right wing trolls is blaming the Guvs for shit that other people post. You’re not helping set the record straight.

            • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

              I don’t care about this story very much, frankly. I’m over it. I promoted her Q&A pre-scandal because it’s been unofficial policy as long as I’ve been posting here that candidates and electeds present in person land on FP; I think I’m a little stricter actually, because I don’t promote them unless they’re staying to answer questions. Then this happened and a bunch of people were still saying she was refusing to repay the money after a statement to the contrary was released that accused DPS of some cray-cray accounting practices, so I wrote an update, because rork is very much on one side of this (nothing wrong with that) and it seemed only fair. This was one too many.

              But by all means, JeffcoBlue/Ralphie ticket for next FPEs.  

            • Ah Choo says:

              This was a thoughtful, researched post that wasn’t at all vitriolic–yet cowgirl’s first comment was takedown graphic.

              Cowgirl may be “over this,” but claiming to not give a shit doesn’t mean this isn’t an issue that matters. This is about some basic principles of good government, and trying to blow it off with chic cynicism and apathy is pathetic.  

              • Middle of the Road says:

                Well said. For those of us who have dealt up close and personal with these vindictive hypocrites, to hijack a post that breaks down $7,000 of mismanaged money is fairly insulting to all of us and I say this as someone who likes PCG.

                If she is “over” it, easy peasy. Stay out of the diaries and don’t comment.  

                • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

                  I promote one Q&A from her and everyone jumps on me. Rork writes and posts a diary about her and everyone jumps on… me. I write a diary about her and everyone jumps on me. I think four diaries about her on the front page at the same time is a bit much and perhaps someone could write something else for me to promote and.. yeah.

                  Bah. I need a vacation. Think the Guvs would penalty box me by request so I can’t post here for a few days?

                  • cdsmith says:

                    Sorry you are in the middle of it.  I, for one, very much appreciate your promotion of Merida’s policy piece.  I think it was an easy call, and having an elected official here and willing to answer policy questions was one of the high points in the recent history of Pols.  Even if that elected official ought to be in jail… she isn’t, and she represents people and makes decisions that affect politics in Colorado.  Definitely appropriate, right smack in the middle of the sort of content we should want here.  Well done!

                    I really appreciate your time and energy here, and I’m sorry others are very poorly behaved.

                    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

                      And thanks for humoring me in my moment of bitchiness. I shouldn’t be snippy, FPEs should be criticized no matter what they do, it keeps the blog honest. Knew that was part of the deal and could have declined the nomination if I didn’t want to deal with it. I’m just getting a little annoyed with the fighting here lately, and hoping we revert to “thoughtfulness cloaked in silliness” soon, which was always my favorite of Pols’ many moods. But we’re missing Droll and SSG Dan now, have hardly seen Daft Punk lately, and Go Raiders is still MIA presumably buried in work 🙁

                    • Fidel's dirt nap says:

                      Appreciate all your contributions here.  Always.

                  • DavidThi808 says:

                    It means you’ve posted and front paged content that has people worked up. I’d say that’s a great metric of success.

                  • Diogenesdemar says:

                    that far too often you give a shit.  ;~)

                    If you don’t drink heavily already, this might be a good weekend to start.  (I had some fantastic Rye for the first time in my life last weekend.  Highly recommended, it’s well worth the hangover.)

                  • nancycronk says:

                    One hour of telling ellebee what he can do with his union-hate, and my name is mud forever. Sucks, really, but fighting it would only make it worse.

                    Besides, it’s quiet here, and sxp151 wrote some hillarious stuff on the wall.  

          • nancycronk says:

            Your photo was funny. I’m about as sick of the Merida bashing as I was the Cherry Creek News / Defense Denver b.s. that got rerunned til it’s death around here. Yeah Merida and her band are unprofessional and a little radical, but their educational policy opinions are not only sound, but much needed in this town. The message is valuable; the messengers, rough around the edges. So what?

            Your photo was great — you have nothing to apologize for. If Pols readers can’t take a joke, that’s their problem.  

      • ClubTwitty says:

        But it is a bit Merida heavy here of late. I am not a Denver voter.  Not that that would preclude me from posting an opinion if I choose to.  Some of the expenses look suspicious to me, and the whole DeFENSE Denver battles were a bit…bizarre.  

        But I love Denver (as long as I don’t have to spend much time there).  But Denver-centric articles aren’t the major draw for me.  Of course, many peeps probably think my outstate perspective is not their thing.  So its all good…I don’t HAVE to read the diaries.  

        And besides.  When else does John H Kennedy get to post–except for diaries that are (tangentially) related to Romanoff and how he picked the wrong candidate, two years ago?    

  2. bluestater says:

    While I think we all sort of look at all of these restaurant meetings as the sort of thing that seems absurd but can’t really be clearly proven to be not used on a meeting or whatever, some of these charges are really strange.

    It kind of seems like she was just using the card for miscellaneous expenses whenever she felt like it? Like…flowers for Jeannie Kaplan? Really?

    Lines up though. Jeannie Kaplan’s birthday is tomorrow, according to her facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/kaplanforkids) so it would make sense for Merida to have bought flowers on Sept. 1, 2010. But it doesn’t make sense for her to have used the school board credit card to do it.

    P.s. Happy birthday (tomorrow) Jeannie Kaplan!

  3. raymond1 says:

    * Fax service: Even if she didn’t list the fax# as one at which her constituents could fax her, she could’ve used this number for outgoing faxes.

    * Books: Absent proof she bought emo vampire novels, books are’t presumptively improper; she easily could’ve bought books on issues relevant to her DPS work. Buying books is one of the better uses of a professional developmet-type fund.

    * Meals: Again, I suppose it could turn out she billed DPS for eating alone, eating with friends, etc. – but eating out with constituents to discuss issues would seem a valid use of funds.

    I do agree it’s worth investigating further what she spent all this money on, given the substantial degree to which she overspent — but we can’t assume that items like meals, books, and a fax service for an unlisted number are presumptively improper.

  4. John Tzekara says:

    If I read the articles right, didn’t he sign off on all of these expenses every step of the way?

    I’m not justifying her expenses (and there are quite a few I’m curious about), but apparently the Board President thought it was all fine.

    • Ralphie says:

      Because she is incapable of accepting any blame herself.

      Easley’s not the problem.

      • John Tzekara says:

        Because if one of my kids came back, say from clothes shopping, and I asked for the receipts, I would expect to find clothes.  If there was a lot of other random stuff on there, I would talk to them and find out what they were spending their money on.

        Not too different of a situation here: you’re very quick to defend him, when the oversight of everyone’s expenses was his responsibility.  Again, not defending her, but he’s guilty of either approving whatever charges everyone thinks are so terrible, or gross negligence in letting it go so far.  Did he not notice when she went 1K over?  2K?  3k?  Shouldn’t he have brought it up then?

      • ohnotroll6969 says:

        That doesn’t answer the question.

        I know there’s a lot of hate to go around for Merida but why did Easley sign off on all of this? If all of you important bloggers think she’s behind the recall of Easley, why wouldn’t he set her up?

        But even if he’s not smart enough to set her up, why would he sign off on all of this?

        You guys are great, btw. Real instigators investigators.  

    • raymond1 says:

      If he has to approve each submitted expense, ok — but that doesn’t mean it’s in any way his job to tally each member’s aggregation of expenses to see if s/he is over the $5K. So Merida blaming Easley is a predictable cheap shot.  

      • sloanslake says:

        I don’t think Easley’s job is to run each of 7 board members’ accounting spreadsheet

        Easley is the DPS School Board President and you think he shouldn’t be reponsible for keeping an eye on boardmember’s expense reports? Really? Am I living in some alternate universe?

        I’m a Denver taxpayer of many, many years and read the DP

        s breaking news story yesterday and watched the 10pm Channel 7 KMGH investigative report tonight and this lady made me SICK.

        How in god’s good name is spending money at Griff’s Hamburgers on South Broadway remotely a business related expense? Do moms and dads of school kids really want to meet at this incredibly run down greasy burger joint and discuss their child’s education? C’mon, we weren’t born yesterday.

        • raymond1 says:

          Your doubt that meetings occur over meals is unpersuasive.

          Also unpersuasive is your insistence that among a Board of 7 equally elected members, the guy they (among themselves) name the Board’s President necessarily takes on responsibility to tabulate each member’s expense budget.

    • Half Glass Full says:

      Are you saying that about this post, or about Merida? If the latter, I agree wholeheartedly.

      • sxp151 says:

        or two days’ hate, or two years, or whatever it turns out to be. I am sick to death of talking about Merida on this site, and I’m even sicker (than death) of all the self-righteous preening and piling on from commenters. There are real problems in Denver, in Colorado, in the country, and in the world. Whether Andrea Merida eats too much Chick-Fil-A is not one of them, and for a long time I believed commenters here were smart enough to know that.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          It lowers the expectations and efforts of everyone it touches. When a board member acts in this way, it tells everyone in the system that they also can ignore the rules. I think this absolutely deserves the attention it is getting – because the employees of DPS deserve a much better example of leadership.

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          from an incredibly flawed messenger (and that’s being awfully goddam generous in this case.)

          If Moses had come down from Mt. Sinai with $12,000 in receipts from McDonalds, Buger King, and Wendy’s ( . . . “Diety meetings, Torah authorship conferences” . . . ) along with God’s ten commandments, we might all be worshipping golden calves today . . . just sayin’.

  5. glasscup says:

    I know that there are some people that are frustrated with me posting this and I wanted to address that.

    I was writing this post as I had time at work throughout the day. So, despite there being other posts on this stuff, I was focused on what this was, which I thought was important – that is, raising questions about Merida’s specific expenditures that seem problematic. I wanted to raise those questions before the conversation got so far afield (ie to her returning money) that they weren’t relevant.

    The reason I think they are important to raise is that I think they display problems with her judgment. I want to know more myself about many of the expenses, but if they are as they appear, then she was wantonly using her district card to cover random personal expenses, and she had to know she was doing that.

    If that’s the case, no matter how much money it was or whether she returns it, that’s a serious ethical issue. So I raised these in hopes of drawing more attention and clarifying information to them.

    I recognize that there is another diary, and that it was about a different (but also important) subject. I just didn’t think there was any significant discussion of what I thought was a key point – ie, what she was spending the money on – so I wanted to write that up.  

    • RedGreen says:

      if you looked through the expenditures of the other board members, since you seem to be saying it wasn’t so much the amount of over-spending but the inappropriate spending, no matter what the amount. Do we know the other board members, even those who didn’t exceed their budgets, didn’t also have questionable spending?

      • glasscup says:

        But because of the scale of Merida’s spending, I spent more time on hers.

        I will say though that I didn’t see the same sorts of things.

        The main thing I noticed with Arturo Jimenez was that he spent a TON at Buchi Cafe Cubano. Guy LOVES that place.

        He also seemingly made a weird $239 contribution to this charity; http://www.newsed.org/

        Couldn’t quite figure that one out?

        But, by and large, when I looked at the other reports they seemed to be more straightforward. But it’s entirely possible that I missed something, so if people find other expenses that seem questionable I definitely think they should be raised.  

    • ColoMod says:

      I think that this woman needs to be held accountable. Your post in particular is relevant because you go in to specific reasons why her spending was so egregious. Which most people probably didn’t do own there own.

      Fuck up as an elected, prepare to feel the heat.

  6. Half Glass Full says:

    A measured, well researched report. “Shocking”? I’d call that mild. I realize you are bound by certain journalistic tenets, but I would say it certainly SEEMS outrageously corrupt, plain and simple.

  7. Say Hey Kid says:

    Why did the Superintendent approve these expenditures after she exceeded her annual budget? Isn’t he to blame as well?

  8. ohnotroll6969 says:

    and that’s a personal thing, but why does everyone else hate her so much? Are you all exes of Michele Moss? She’s not that great in bed, you know.  

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