City Council expenses a moot point

Published 11:23 am Tuesday, May 2, 2017

One might question the timing of these expense allegations toward District Two City Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton coming out during the first week of early voting as a ploy to change an election.
The truth of the matter is, these allegations are a moot point, and here’s why.
1.    Each and every expense was for government purposes. The expenses paid for events and training to help citizens of our community.
2.    Each and every expense was presented to the Port Arthur City Council and approved by the council. So if there was an issue, why is it coming out now?
3.    Other council members had similar expenses and yet this is not brought up in these allegations. For example, current District Four councilman Keith Richard, who decided not to run for re-election, attended many of the same events. In particular, he attended a conference held earlier this year in New York City. Why does a councilperson that was not going to run for re-election, need to go to these? Wasted expense? Why are critics not crying foul for this as well?
4.    But most important, the Port Arthur City Municipal Code at, which can be viewed by anyone wanting to find information, states that there is not an expense level set for individual city council members. The city budget has an expense budget that was approved by city council. Once this budget item has been met, there are no more expenses for council travel.
Article II – The Council: Section 3 – Salary and Expenses reads as such.
The mayor and councilmembers have received a salary and car allowance as delineated in an ordinance set by the city council at the time they approved the fiscal year budget for the city, with due opportunity for public comment. They are also entitled to be reimbursed for all other necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their official duties. The requests for reimbursement for expenses incurred shall be presented and approved by the city council in an official public meeting in accordance with the city’s policies and procedures as adopted or to be adopted by ordinance. The city council may propose changes in compensation and benefits, which shall be submitted for approval by a majority of the citizens in a May election.
To put it simply, there is not a standard level of expenses set for each city council person. To make accusations or question that a councilmember has abused their position, when there is not a set amount or ruling to back that claim, is wrong.
If citizens want this changed, and want a cap or max level of expense allowed per each councilperson, then it must be changed in the city charter. And this must be voted on by citizens of Port Arthur.
Until this is done, the Port Arthur News stands behind District Two City Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton, and our endorsement of her re-election.
Councilwoman Hamilton cares deeply for the city and its citizens. This has been shown over and over by her continual focus and commitment to help others, along with her quest, to seek positive long-term change, for Port Arthur.
Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.

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