Securing the San Jose Mayor

City strikes to balance cost with security needs, uses city officers to accompany mayor on travels

When he came into office in January 1999, Gonzales showed little interest in traveling or attending conferences. City records show Gonzales traveled just once on city business in 1999, once in 2000, and twice in 2001 before Sept. 11. Each trip was to Washington, D.C., and he had no police escort.

Dishotsky, the mayor's chief of staff, said Gonzales has traveled more often in recent years because ``it became clear to us that in order to be effective representing a large city in America that you have to do this stuff.'' She said he was asked to serve on committees associated with national city organizations, requiring more trips.

The mayor's travel expenses are paid from a variety of sources. City taxpayers have footed about $18,000 for his travel expenses since he took office, records show. More often, his costs have been covered by his political benefactors, his hosts, or another government agency such as the Valley Transportation Authority.

No matter who picks up the mayor's costs, the city always pays for his police escort, such as nearly $6,500 for the two officers, Bobby Avila and Rubens Dalaison, to attend the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

They also serve the mayor's other non-business needs, such as driving him to appointments with four different Los Angeles labor leaders in September 2004 when he was considering whether to run for a state office, a trip the mayor had combined with a housing conference at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Avila and Dalaison are compensated for all their working hours spent with the mayor whether in San Jose or while traveling. Under the police labor contract, they are limited to 1.5 hours a week in overtime pay, receiving compensatory time for other hours beyond a normal work week.

Local protection

Officers have accompanied all San Jose mayors locally -- where he or she has been a recognizable figure -- since the late 1970s, after San Francisco Mayor George Moscone was killed at City Hall by Supervisor Dan White.

``At city council meetings, you need someone there, and at rare public events, but almost all the time just traveling around the city, I wouldn't have security with me,'' said McEnery, the mayor from 1983 through 1990.

But Chief Davis said despite Gonzales' lack of national recognition, the escorts were justified.

``Either you provide security for the mayor or you don't,'' he said. ``If we have somebody go out and hurt the mayor, people will criticize the police department for not providing the security that was needed.''

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