Travel reimbursements: What’s yours is mine

ALMOST every company accepts a basic contract between business travellers and employers: employees go where the boss sends them, but get to keep the airline miles and hotel points (and associated perks) for themselves. But it doesn’t always work that way. Travel rewards can count as a taxable fringe benefit. In Santa Clara county, California, government workers are expected to use the travel benefits they rack up on the road for future county-related travel only. According to an investigation by NBC Bay Area, one county official is breaking that rule in a big way:The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit uncovered documents that show Child Support Services Director John Vartanian is racking up travel and credit card rewards using public money. Now, the county is investigating Vartanian’s travel records.The documents show that Vartanian has put more than $55,000 in hotel costs and registration fees on his personal credit card since 2008. By adding his personal Hyatt and Hilton rewards numbers, he’s able to rack up travel points for everyone’s travel. The records indicate he has put the travel of at least 30 other employees on his personal card, even for trips to conferences that he didn’t even attend.“The public’s tax dollars are being used so John Vartanian can go on vacation,” said Valerie Yates, who spent 25 years in the Department of Child Services before retiring in 2010. …

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