, Port Arthur, Texas

June 11, 2013

Doucet calls into question mileage policy

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Whether the City Council acted appropriately two weeks ago when members  amended the city’s travel ordinance was called into question Tuesday by a former councilman.

Harold Doucet represented District 4 until a month ago when he vacated the position after mounting an unsuccessful bid to unseat the city’s mayor. He attended Tuesday’s meeting as a citizen to comment on the amendment.

At last meeting, in a split vote, City Council approved the change that allows the mayor and council members to claim mileage on shorter trips —those totaling 30 miles, or more.

Before that, mileage could only be claimed for city-related travel of 100 miles, or more.

“If it is legal, it is not ethical. I do not think it is a good idea for council to have passed this amendment,” Doucet said. “We need to take a second look.”

The problem, Doucet said, is that Council already receives an automobile allowance that should more than pay for any gas-related expenditures.

In addition to the recently amended mileage reimbursement for short trips, the city’s mayor receives a $600 monthly car allowance; the mayor pro-tem $550; and council members $500.

Those amounts are in addition to compensation for  the performance of city-related job duties. The mayor’s is paid $1,552 monthly; the mayor pro tem, $976; and each council member’s monthly payment is $488.

“After sitting two years on Council it is hard to spend more than $500 on fuel,” Doucet said.

But, while Doucet claimed the meager mileage reimbursement, District 6 Councilman Robert “Bob” Williamson said city records told a different story.

According to Williamson, city records indicate Doucet received about $1,900 on trip mileage reimbursement during his two years on Council.

At the same time, the mayor received $159.88 for the trip reimbursement during the same time period.

The mayor’s mileage reimbursement was in addition to her auto allowance, Williamson said.

While serving on City Council Doucet said he elected to not receive a salary, or an auto allowance, but was reimbursed for mileage.

Raymond Scott, Jr., District 1 Councilman, was among those who voted against the amended ordinance two weeks ago.

Tuesday he said his feelings had not changed.

“I agree with Mr. Doucet. People who voted for this need to justify it,” Scott said.

Williamson has previously said the change was necessary for those times when city business dictates shorter trips.

District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis also voted against the measure two weeks ago, and would do so again, he said.

“You should either get a car allowance, or mileage, but not both,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the Council should to revisit the issue in a future meeting.


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