Questions raised about councilmen's road trip spending habits

At his kitchen table, Harold Doucet gathers food for thought so his fellow Port Arthur taxpayers can digest.

But what he's found might actually give them heartburn.

Doucet has invoices showing that back in 2012, the city paid $878.40 for a 30-day car rental for Freeman to attend a three-day conference.

Freeman admits he kept it much longer.

He told us, "That first month's bill they accidentally sent it to the city, and I did reimburse the city, but I kept that car in my name for five, six months."

Still Doucet says reimbursement for that January car rental did not come until April.

But there's another trip that Doucet himself went on that he believes should concern taxpayers, city records show that Doucet, along with several other council members and the city manager went to New Orleans last year to tour housing developments. 

Most of them traveled in a city chartered van at a cost of $285.47 per person, but Freeman and Councilman Bob Williamson chose to drive themselves, not car pool, each in their own car.

That increased the cost of the trip to taxpayer by about $300 for each of those two councilmen.

Doucet said, "They got money, more than what it costs for us to go and the question you get if you drove to New Orleans, does it take $300 worth of gas."

Both Freeman and Williamson cited other obligations for not going in the van.

Freeman told us, "I had to leave a little early from the trip from New Orleans to Dayton to meet a TML (Texas Municipal League) regional meeting, I guess you call it."

Williamson expanded his reasoning by telling us that piling a bunch of council members in a van could lead to a violation quorum rules dealing with the open meetings law, and pose a security concern saying an accident could cause the loss of the entire governing body.

Another piece of information that increases the scrutiny on how Port Arthur council members are spending money on mileage and travel is how much they make.

It's a part-time job, but according to the city charter, council members make a monthly salary of $976.50 and a $500 a month car allowance.  The mayor makes $1,552.98 a month, and gets a $600 a month car allowance.

Doucet says that's good pay for part-time council members in our area.


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