OAKLAND — Vegas won't stay in Vegas for Peralta College District Trustee Marcie Hodge.
The district's lawyer has backed down from privacy claims and released details of the personal purchases that Hodge placed on her public credit card during the past 18 months. Hodge has paid the bills out of her own pocket.
The charges, kept secret for weeks, include $633.58 Hodge racked up at a dress shops at Las Vegas' Venetian casino in January 2008.
"If you came to Las Vegas and forgot your flashy, sequined dress, don't be alarmed," states the Web site of the Marshall Rousso dress shop, where Hodge spent $355. She also spent $278 at another Venetian clothing store called "Privilege."
Other charges included $650 paid to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and $1,763.32 at four New York Look clothing stores in Manhattan in January.
Hodge said Thursday she doesn't think the charges create a perception problem for the district because she pays the bills. Asked why she didn't use a personal credit card for the purchases, Hodge replied: "I didn't know this was going to be an issue. I ran (for the Peralta board) to stop waste. I didn't run to live off the taxpayers."
Hodge said she alone bore responsibilities for the purchases. But a letter from the district's credit card company, Elan Financial Services, released with Hodge's bills states there is shared risk if the bills aren't paid.
"The authorized officer and the individual card member both have liability," the letter states. "The authorized officer has the first line of liability ... the individual cardholders are responsible for charges made on their own cards as well."
Hodge said she believed the personal charges "fall under privacy," but she agreed not to fight the release of uncensored bills to end a threatened Public Records Act lawsuit by the Bay Area News Group.
In all, district attorney Thuy Nguyen released details on nearly $4,400 in personal purchases Hodge charged to her district card during an 18 month period starting in January 2008.
Nguyen had first claimed Hodge had a right to privacy and that the public would be better served by keeping the details secret than making them public. The decision to release the statements came after trustees met in closed session Tuesday night to discuss the threatened lawsuit.
"We are confident that a court would compel the district to disclose" the bills, news group lawyer Duffy Carolan wrote to the district on July 14. Hodge said Tuesday she didn't fight the release of the bills to end any controversy surrounding them.
Letters written by an assistant to Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris that accompanied Hodge's checks repeatedly claimed she "mistakenly" used the card for private transactions.
"That's not my lingo," Hodge said of the word mistakenly, adding that she knew she was using the district card.
Other charges include repeated purchases at Best Buy stores and gift stores in Georgia and Washington. The records show that in January 2008, Hodge's card received a credit from a Coach Leather store in Napa for a purchase made the month before.
Hodge voted with other trustees Tuesday to ban the use of credit cards for personal purchases following a July 12 report on district spending by the Bay Area News Group.
Trustee President William Withrow said in an interview earlier this month that "nothing but common sense" prevented the use of the cards for personal expenses. He sponsored the ban on the practice that was added to the district's ethics policy Tuesday night.
Staff Writer Matt Krupnick contributed to this report.