MAY 06, 2009
Elected officials in a financially struggling U.S. city that already had its mayor sent to prison spent exorbitant amounts of tax dollars on first-class travel to attend questionable conferences around the world.
One Detroit councilwoman alone (Barbara-Rose Collins) spent more than $20,000 on a single trip to the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai for a pension conference last fall. Her business class plane ticket cost nearly $10,000, registration for the conference nearly $7,000 and around $3,500 for hotel stay and a car with a driver.
The outrageous waste of tax dollars was made public this week by the local newspaper, which has met strong resistance from city leaders since making public records requests involving the costly jaunts. Like a good politician, the veteran Detroit lawmaker blames others—her staff—for the waste.
Collins made the trip to supposedly fulfill her duties as a Detroit public pension trustee. The public pensions—one for police and fire and the other for all other city employees—have lost billions of dollars in the last few years as trustees and their assistants billed it for travel to more than 100 such conferences.
Another trustee, who also sits on Detroit’s City Council, billed the pension $710 a night to stay at a lavish New York hotel and $544 a night for four nights in Las Vegas. Others took trips to England, India, Florida and Singapore. Details of those expenses are sketchy because city officials have violated open records laws by failing to provide them to the newspaper, which has subsequently filed a lawsuit to obtain them.
Detroit’s corrupt elected officials have repeatedly made national headlines in the last few months. Earlier this year, its disgraced mayor (Kwame Kilpatrick), whose felonious antics have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, completed a jail sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice.
The self-described “Hip Hop Mayor” pleaded guilty to the felonies to avoid an embarrassing criminal trial and nearly a dozen equally serious charges. Kilpatrick lied under oath at a police whistleblower trial to hide an extramarital affair with a city staffer. The city secretly settled with the cops for $9 million because they had been wrongfully fired for snooping about the mayor’s secret romance.
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