The Chandler councilman who fell under heavy scrutiny for using public money for personal expenses made his final payment on a cell phone bill that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
The city accepted a $1,600 check this week from Councilman Martin Sepulveda, bringing the total he has repaid to about $7,500, said Jane Poston, a Chandler spokeswoman.
However the amount is about $1,200 short of the $8,700 he charged on city-issued credit cards for personal and business-related cell phone calls during the past three years.
Poston said he was not required to repay the entire amount because he returned some of the equipment he purchased with taxpayer money. Those items included a $400 cell phone along with other cell phone accessories such as a battery charger.
Word of Sepulveda’s latest payment received a mixed response Friday from some of his colleagues on the City Council. While they were pleased he was continuing to repay the debt, most continued to criticize Sepulveda for his refusal to release detailed records showing who he called.
“I didn’t think there was any question about that,” said Councilman Bob Caccamo. “He was using public money, so, therefore, that it was public record.”
After the Tribune reported Sepulveda had racked up thousands in cell phone charges at taxpayers’ expense, he refused to hand over an itemized list of the calls he made. He claimed they were personal and not open to public inspection. Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn called for Sepulveda to hand over the records, but the city took no official action to recover them.
Since then, the council has acted to ensure that doesn’t happen again. It passed a resolution to tighten loopholes used by Sepulveda to charge taxpayers for his personal calls. It also stipulated if a council member accepts any financial compensation for a cell phone, then those records are open to the public.
“I’m glad he’s repaying the money,” said Chandler Vice Mayor Lowell Huggins. “That says something about him. It doesn’t make him honest, again, but it says something.”
Sepulveda declined to comment when reached Friday, saying: “You’ve got all the information you need.”
He is currently stationed in California, where he is preparing to serve in Iraq as part of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Sepulveda could be gone for as long as a year, according to the military orders he filed with the city. It’s not known when he will depart, but Councilman Matt Orlando told a group gathered at a Chandler Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday that Sepulveda was scheduled to leave sometime between the middle and end of January.
In his absence, the City Council is preparing to select a temporary replacement who could sit on the council until the November elections.
Thirty-eight Chandler residents are vying for that job, which pays $13,500 per year. Each council member will nominate one candidate before choosing someone later this month.