Channel 8 -- Dallas/Fort Worth's WFAA-TV -- has been shining the spotlight on some lavish spending at taxpayers' expense by Mesquite city officials. The big bite out of the taxpayers' wallet came during city officials' trips to the Big Apple.
According to the investigation by News 8's Craig Civale and Chris Hawes, Mequite officials -- including Mayor Pro Tem Shirley Roberts -- lived like the Rockefellers while they were in New York for meetings in connection with an upcoming city bond sale.
From the Channel 8 report:
But for two years - in 2004 and 2005 - these business trips became lavish vacations.
The total taxpayer-funded bill for those years included:
• $22,000 on hotel rooms and suites at the Westin Hotel in Times Square.
• $13,242 on dining at the city's finest restaurants, including La Cirque and Tavern on the Green.
• $15,700 on Broadway shows like "Wicked," "Hairspray" and "Mama Mia."
• $23,253 for a private car service, apparently to avoid the need to take taxis or use public transportation.
Mayor Pro Tem Roberts was one of several city workers to bring family members along at taxpayer expense, a violation of city policy. She told News 8 she had "no idea" that taxpayers were footing the bill for her family's vacation.
But according to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, the cost was buried in a larger, taxpayer-funded loan "with the knowledge and approval of certain City officials."
Click here to see the SEC filing about the Mesquite officials' wining and dining.
Texas Watchdog's Matt Pulle was featured in the story.
Again, from WFAA-TV's Web site:
"That has nothing to do with your civic duties; that's just using your elected office to have a good time," said Matt Pulle of the Texas Watchdog group monitoring government transparency. "That's wrong, and reckless, and almost criminal."
Check out additional WFAA-TV, Channel 8, reports on the moneybags from Mesquite here.
Photo of Times Square by flickr user Jon Ander Rabadan, used via a Creative Commons license.