……Sometimes stories just need to be finished.
[This article was offered to the Denton Record-Chronicle to allow them to complete the story. There was no reply.]
Recently, the Denton Record-Chronicle ran an article about Mayor Mark Burroughs’ travel expenses for trips over the past year while representing the City of Denton. Once again, half-researched, half-reported “facts” misled DRC readers, yet when a little deeper record checking is done, the story becomes clear.
I did that record checking, and here is what I found.
1) That the City’s budget was “busted” by the Mayor’s travel: The truth is that the Mayor (and the entire City Council) stopped most travel during the recession. The records show that the budget was not adjusted to post-recession travel demands until a few months ago. (Adjusting from $30,000 to $45,000 for the entire City Council per year). And remember, as the City’s chief representative, the Mayor does the majority of the travel.
2) That the City may have paid for the Mayor’s family to travel: The truth is, the City has never paid for travel, food or other such expenses for the Mayor’s wife or children while accompanying him on City business. (Although some cities do)
3) That the Mayor charged the City for premium rooms while on City trips: The truth is, the City only paid the lowest available rates at the facilities where events occurred. Mayor Burroughs paid the costs of any upgrades to accommodate his family every time they accompanied him.
4) That the Mayor of San Antonio apparently pays much of his own travel while on City business, so the fact that Denton’s Mayor asking for reimbursement is somehow wrong or unfair: In fact, the Mayor of San Antonio is a PAID position, while our Mayor is not paid at all (neither is the rest of the City Council). San Antonio’s Mayor also often travels with up to three personal staff who appear to often report meals and other Mayoral travel expenses on their travel reports………..our Mayor is assigned no such staff. Besides, what is the point here? Should our UNPAID Mayor be asked to pay for travel expenses incurred while on City business out of his family’s pocket?
5) That the Mayor of Frisco’s room costs were less (for the same USCM conference attended by Mayor Burroughs) than those of our mayor: The reason for this is, Frisco Mayor Maso left the conference and inauguration events days earlier when rates were considerably less.
6) That some individual orders at one meal during a USCM conference were high: The truth is, the average meal costs over the whole trip were not out of line, a fact vaguely referenced in the DRC story. Remember too that entertaining is a universal practice in conducting business, something Mayor Burroughs was doing during his trips for the City of Denton.
7) That the Mayor was taking trips to vacation destinations on the City’s dime: In the original article, you may have noticed that the DRC failed to mention the names of the cities the Mayor traveled to, (Ponta Grossa and Ciritiba, Brazil and Tartu, Estonia) and which account for the majority of the costs. Presumably, that is because few have ever heard of them and they are certainly not “tourist destinations”. Additionally,
travel to such “off the beaten path” locations is just more expensive by nature. Gabriel Carranza, Assistant Vice Provost of International Cooperation, University of North Texas said that these trips by Mayor Burroughs were requested and organized by UNT to establish sister city, university and corporate development opportunities and to explore sustainable community initiatives. Next to nothing was said about this in DRC article, because as the reporter herself said………”That was not the direction of my story.”
So a partial story was?
While on this subject, it’s probably a good time to address the fact that Denton has an unpaid City Council. I wonder what it COSTS each Councilperson to serve our great city? Cities of similar size pay their Council members something to reward the enormous amounts of time spent by each doing City business. Denton has been growing and continues to grow and with growth comes larger, more complicated and more time-consuming problems. At the very least, I think its time to offset the out of pocket expenses each councilperson accrues. We live in a great city, and those who work hard to represent us should not be asked to pay for the privilege to do so.
The City Council itself would have initiate pay for the council, so maybe the action could be drafted to go into effect after the last of the presently serving members leave office. That way there could be no accusations of anyone trying to enrich themselves.
Please Share so that those who still read the DRC will read……