TODAY'S QUESTION: Should a moratorium be put on city travel expenses?

Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:43 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 25, 2010

COLUMBIA — Third Ward candidate Gary Kespohl released a campaign ad this week that publicly criticizes incumbent Karl Skala about the travel expenses he accrued during his first three-year term.

The ad says, "Skala has been on a three-year, taxpayer-funded spending junket — traveling and eating like a king." The Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere" plays in the ad, too.


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Skala defended his spending, saying the expenses were legitimate. A portion of his travel was to attend conferences of the National League of Cities which has met in New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio; and other locations over the past three years.

Council travel budgets from city records show that Skala spent more than other council members on travel during each of his first three years on the council. Each ward representative is allotted $4,500, while the mayor is given $10,000 for travel expenses.

There are guidelines for these expenses but no specific rules. The Finance Department determines if expenses that exceed the suggested amount are justified.

Kespohl said he feels city officials should be more specific when spending taxpayer money.

Should a moratorium be put on city expenses? What do you think of Kespohl's ad targeting Skala's travel?

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Liz Mitchell March 25, 2010 | 3:28 p.m.

I would think that whether to find out how other cities have handled certain challenges or to network with other municipalities in order to have a cohesive approach to dealing with states' governments and the Federal Government, that some or all of this travel might well have been warranted.

I believe the current debate on the subject is Mr. Kespohl's attempt to make political hay. He raised a stink about expenses without any examination of whether Columbia benefited from these travels by Mr. Skala or not. He talks about what was on the dinner menu, not on the purposes or outcomes of these trips. Can we hear a little more about that? A little more light and a little less heat, please!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 25, 2010 | 5:52 p.m.

I think the ad was pretty disgusting, and know at least one person who made a campaign contribution to Skala's campaign after hearing it on the radio.

(Report Comment)
Larry Grossmann March 25, 2010 | 6:01 p.m.

I think that Liz has a good idea, I hope Missourian reporters check with Jefferson City and see how much travel they do. I think you will find they don't do any. $7,500 in one year should be out of the question. $80 for one meal should be out of the question. Yes, a moratorium should start right away. What if a MO. Legislator saw those charges on University Travel, I'd say Jobs would be lost.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 25, 2010 | 7:49 p.m.

Sorry Larry, It seems you already have an axe to grind with Skala prior to this.

3 day conference, only one receipt for 80 dollars? Thats what 26ish dollars a day. That's a bargain. Some people on here lament when we bring high paid consultants. Sending an unpaid volunteer to get this information and "consulting" ourselves sounds like good fiscal policy. I am surprised that you all had a change of heart since Karen Miller went to a similar event for counties commissioners. We don't live in a bubble and if we want those companies to come to Columbia, we got to go where they go. It is to these conferences. What? Did you think corporations looked into a crystal ball?

So Larry, $40-80 bucks for a meal per trip (there is only one receipt per trip) airfare+ hotel or hire a five figure consultant? $7500 vs 75,000?

If you would choose the latter, if you worked for me, you would of been fired.

(Report Comment)

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