Lest you think there is never any good news about how people in the public trust spend public money, here is a brighter note: San Diego Unified Superintendent Terry Grier has cut down his expenses at San Diego Unified considerably over the past few months.

You might remember that Grier got in some hot water earlier this year after a staffer mistakenly charged his expenses at an out-of-town conference in March to a federal fund for disadvantaged students. The costs included some pricey meals and lobbying costs that are banned under the federal rules for the specialized funds.

The tab wasn’t huge, but it ticked off parents and employees, and the mistaken charge was worrisome because San Diego Unified has had problems with that same federal fund over the years.

Well, I just got a big batch of expense reports for Grier covering his entire tenure as superintendent, and it looks like he scaled back this spring.

In November 2008 Grier spent more than $2,800 on travel, conferences and other charges over and above his salary, including some canceled flights. But in June 2009, Grier spent only $104 on meals and parking, including a $70 meal for four people at Adams Avenue Grill that fell far short of some of the meal costs for which he was earlier criticized. He only charged one trip in May, a single day in Sacramento where he and a consultant spent only $18 each on a breakfast buffet. And in April, he charged only $81 for an awards dinner and a month of parking around town.

None of the expenses were charged to the federal funds that the March conference was accidentally charged to, at least as noted on the forms. Grier also flew economy rates, often on Southwest. However, there was one expense that stood out. Grier’s wife Nancy came along to a conference in San Francisco for the American Association of School Administrators, which came out to $1,751, most of it in conference and hotel fees. The school district did not pay her airfare, but it did pay for a $69 “spouse guest” registration for the conference.

I’m still paging through the expense reports, but so far, so good. I’ll post updates if anything interesting — good, bad or in between — turns up.


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