Mayor Art Bishop used a town credit card to pay for his wife’s airline ticket based on credit card statements recently provided to me by town officials. Bishop claims he reimbursed the town (the town had four days to confirm the reimbursement, but so far, all I hear are crickets), but why is it the town’s responsibility to pay upfront for a spouse’s trip. These trainings are supposed to be business trips, right?
Two round-trip tickets to Sacramento, each costing $265.96 with a departure date of Jan. 16 were purchased from Southwest Airlines on Dec. 19. The names of each passenger are listed on the statement. Art Bishop is listed on the first ticket. The second ticket lists his wife, Kathleen.
Additionally, Bishop used the card to pay the $15 early boarding upgrade fee for each leg of their flights for a total of $60.
League of California Cities
It appears that the Sacramento trip was for a conference hosted by the League of California Cities. The Jan. 17-19 event was billed as the “New Mayors and Council Members Academy.”
Now remember, Bishop was first elected in 2012 and he previously served as mayor, too. Why does he need to go to an “academy” for new mayors and council members, especially when registration is $575, airline tickets for he and his wife are $600, and then you have a hotel room that probably cost $600? Not to mention food and other expenses.
This trip appears to be a gigantic excuse to get away on a little junket with his wife. Don’t believe me, take a look at the agenda listed here (PDF download).
You tell me if this was a meaningful trip.
Day 1: Wednesday
The first meeting on how the League of California Cities works begins at 9:30 a.m. Bishop has been a member of the League for six years. Pretty sure he knows how it works.
Then there is something called a “Basics Bootcamp.” The description reads: “After a few council meetings, you discover that sitting on the ‘target’ side of the dais means you must be prepared for anything. Equip yourself with the necessary tools by reviewing some basic rules for new mayors and council members.”
Then there is a 90-minute lunch followed by a session on legal powers and the Brown Act. Then an introductory session to the role of regional agencies, the state and its impact on land use planning.
The final event is a legislative reception where local electeds get to meet their state representatives. I am going to assume that Bishop has met them already — numerous times.
There is nothing of real substantive value offered to a council member who has been in office since 2012. This action-packed thriller of a day ends at 6:30 p.m.
Day 2: Thursday
The second day was just as bad — maybe worse.
There was an enlightening first session to kick-off the day at 8:30 a.m. It was about the relationship between city councils and city managers and their staff. This was followed by how to use social media to communicate and then a lunchtime panel on how to conduct effective and respectful council meetings. Seriously.
Now, here is where it gets funny. The afternoon session was about the responsibilities of elected officials “in exercising fiduciary accountability and transparency in open government.”
Does a former mayor and council member half-way through his second term need to know how councils interact with city managers and their staff?
This day wraps up at 4:45 p.m.
Day 3: Friday
So get this … there is only one session. It starts at 9:45 a.m. and ends at 11:45 a.m. Want to take a guess as to what this was about? It was called, “How to Build and Maintain the Public’s Trust: Practical Ethics and the Law.”
That’s it. Out by noon on a Friday.
I wonder if organizers set it up like that on purpose. I mean since every attendee of their conference is traveling to it on the taxpayer’s dime, why not give them the option of turning it into a little weekend getaway.
If elected officials were forced to pay for these junket trips out of their own pocket, I wonder how many would actually go.
I think this trip was a giant waste of time and money. I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send an experienced member of the council on this junket. And I absolutely object to taxpayers footing the travel bill of spouses.
Clearly, the Council is just wasting our tax dollars and taxing us more and more to pay for their play. Stay tuned, there is much more to come on the abuses of your hard-earned tax dollars.
Source: Angela Valles, Apple Valley Review