There’s more on Chip Flowers and his inability to manage the travel budget of his organization today in the NJ. And at this point, this is more about his inability to live up to the transparency he keeps promising and the failure of his epic spin to get him out of this thing.
These numbers are from the article, and a total (that we know of) of $5014.55. Flowers’ hotel, room service and valet parking charges were just reported as one number, I think. And I assumed that Flowers’ airfare was probably the same as Benner’s.
Now for the transparency FAIL:
- Chip claims that his expenses were covered by the $3000.00 stipend that the NAST provides to State Treasurer members, yet he can’t provide any documentation of this. If I read the article correctly, the state credit card information available shows that taxpayers were charged for this, but there is no documentation that other moneys covered his expenses. This info was FOIA’ed with no response.
- Chip claims that he stayed in Anchorage beyond the conference to be able to meet with other financial officials. He won’t provide any meeting schedule or other information about who he met with.
- There are room service charges for two on his bill — Chip says those were for a breakfast meeting, but won’t say who he met with.
- The claim is that Ericka Benner went to Talkeetna to meet with bankers and other financial types (apparently on the spur of the moment, staying longer than the conference), yet no one at the Treasury can say who she met with.
- Chip also stayed longer than the run of the conference (September 8 – 12)– returning on Monday with Ericka Benner. He says that:
“spent the days following the conference including the Monday prior to his departure meeting with other state treasurers, investment banks and other financial experts. The Treasurer’s travel records have been thoroughly vetted and are available to the public at any time.”
Even though requests by Jonathan Starkey for meeting details or other travel detail have not been forthcoming:
Flowers said no taxpayer money was used to pay any expenses. He did not charge other expenses on his state credit card or provide records of those as requested, including his airfare, conference registration, lunch and dinner, and some nights in the hotel after the conference ended.
And that’s probably not all of it, but I for one, am really tired of hearing about transparency and records available to the public when both are demonstrably non-existent. And if the NAST provides a $3000.00 per year stipend for State Treasurer travel costs, and Chip claims no taxpayer money was spent here, then someone paid for the $2014.55 difference(5014.55 – 3000.00), who?
This whole business gets curiouser and curiouser. He is approving , then disapproving, then approving Benner’s expenses (although we seem to be back at the disapproving phase, with Benner now paying more than $6K in reimbursements), and now can’t entirely account for the expenses *or* the business done on this trip to Alaska.
Now, the thing about business travel is that when you get sent to someplace awesome (like Alaska) , you try to figure out how to stay some extra days to see the sights. How many of us get to Alaska on someone else’s dime? The usual thing, though, is to pony up for your expenses the days you aren’t working. In places like Alaska, sometimes good clients (or clients who would be a big capture) get treated to hunting or fishing trips, floatplane excursions, helicopter glacier tours or any of the other fun stuff available up there. This doesn’t seem like what was going on, but you get the idea that hanging out after your business is done could be an adventure. It’s possible that other traveling Treasurers and attendees decided that they’d collude on some meetings in order to stay longer — which would be unusual if the conference was in Omaha, say. But the usual thing is to get your business done during the run of the conference (that is it’s point, after all) and then get back to your job.
Chip has posted in the NJ comments his response to this article (sorry, this came out tiny):
Even though the NJ does report that the breakfast room service order was for two people, and Chip’s claim that he paid for many meals personally (interesting conference setup that you have to pay for all of your own meals) and that he was proud of saving taxpayer money. Which I can’t figure out what, exactly, got saved. Good luck with that meeting with the NJ Publisher and hope that Chip Flowers will be bringing all of the records of this trip that Jonathan Starkey asked for and has yet to get. Otherwise, I think that Sunday Morning Financial Incompetence by Chip Flowers may indeed be a regular feature.