SDPD spends $4,300 for DIRECTV in mayor's vehicle - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

SDPD spends $4,300 for DIRECTV in mayor's vehicle

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The City of San Diego has a budget of $3 billion. So to city officials, $4,300 may not seem like a lot of money. But to taxpayers, $4,300 is a good chunk of change to fork over for 140 channels of satellite TV and radio.

Two weeks ago, a CBS News 8 employee noticed a strange-looking device mounted on the rooftop of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's city-leased SUV.

After some digging on the Internet, we discovered the device is a mobile, satellite TV receiver (KVH TracVision A7) that allows the mayor to receive DIRECTV while on the road.

Under the California Public Records Act, CBS News 8 requested and received DIRECTV invoices and installation records related to the satellite hookup on the mayor's vehicle.

We also requested an on-camera interview with Mayor Faulconer. The mayor's office referred us to the San Diego Police Department instead.

As it turned out, Mayor Faulconer and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman were both appearing at a media event this past Friday, so a CBS News 8 producer took the opportunity to interview both of them.

First question: “Why does the mayor need 140 channels of DIRECTV?”

“That's just the car I drive and it's the decision of the police department. It's their vehicle; a command vehicle. I support the decision of the department,” Mayor Faulconer responded.

The mayor's “command vehicle” does, indeed, fall under the police department's city budget.  Two SDPD officers are assigned to escort the mayor inside the SUV to various official appearances.

The mobile satellite receiver on the roof cost the city $3,580, in addition to a city installation cost of $428, according to the invoice records obtained by CBS News 8.

Since June of 2014, the city has paid $31.47 per month for a DIRECTV subscription package of 140 channels, the records showed.  Those monthly subscription costs are ongoing.

Our CBS News 8 producer had more questions for the mayor: “Is there a reason why you need (DIRECTV)? Why do you use it in there?"

“I haven't used it, actually, I think the department does in cases of emergency or situations like that,” Mayor Faulconer said.

So, if the mayor doesn't actually use the DIRECTV hookup, why are taxpayers paying for it?

We asked SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman.

“It's important if there is a critical incident that we're able to see what is going on throughout the entire city and potentially throughout the entire world. And, that's important in our command vehicle,” Chief Zimmerman responded.

“These are specifications that I want in our command vehicles. I am very comfortable with the package that's inside that vehicle,” Chief Zimmerman said.

City invoices show the mayor's DIRECTV hookup includes a bundle of satellite TV channels called the “Entertainment Package," which is not the cheapest package available.

A less expensive, basic package -- called the "Select Package" -- still includes all the same local and national news channels as the Entertainment Package but it's about five dollars cheaper per month.

According to online DIRECTV lineups, the mayor's Entertainment Package comes bundled with a few extra sports channels, which cannot be viewed in the basic package, including ESPN, ESPN 2 and NFL Sunday Ticket; as well as a handful of additional satellite radio channels.

“You're talking about a different package with a difference of $5 a month that apparently you found online,” said Chief Zimmerman. “I don't think $31.37 a month is excessive.”

But why not get the basic package, the cheapest package, the least expensive package to the taxpayers?

“I have no idea what the package is,” the mayor responded. “You're going to have to ask the police department. It's the department's car.”

CBS News 8 contacted spokespersons for mayors in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose. None of the mayors in those cities have satellite television hookups in their official vehicles.

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