in Houston, Texas
Bill White's city of Houston travel forms missing business purpose, other details
Thursday, Oct 07, 2010, 11:24AM CST
By Steve Miller
suitcase

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White failed to provide reasons for travel on required disclosure forms during at least nine trips during his tenure as mayor of Houston.

While the city asked rank-and-file employees to provide details on all travel, in the trips reviewed by Texas Watchdog, the mayor left blank information such as the purpose of the trip, other employees traveling and business to be transacted -- information the city collects to ensure employees have a valid reason for taking a trip.

The omissions included trips to Washington D.C. in '07 and '08 and to New York in '07 and '08.

 

Forms are also missing for 2007 trips to Seattle and Midland, Texas. The Midland trip also included an unexplained additional fee paid to Advantage Travel, at that time the city’s travel agency, for a one-way ticket on the same flight booked previously.

 

In another 2006 transaction, which appears to be a single flight booked twice with an additional flight folded into a single invoice, White flew to D.C. in March and May, both times for unstated reasons. According to records, the city paid Advantage a service fee twice for the same March flight.

 

And for this 2009 trip to D.C., there is no authorization form at all in city records.

 

Campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon couldn't say why White's office did not fill out the travel authorization forms, and that details of his meetings could be found on his weekly schedules, which she said were always disclosed.

"The information is on his calenders," Bacon said.

Bill WhiteWHITE

White refused a Texas Watchdog request last year for his calendar, only releasing it after a state attorney general's ruling.

White’s campaign, along with some open government advocates, has hammered incumbent Gov. Rick Perry on his refusal to turn over travel records.

In an Associated Press story last month about Perry’s travel:

“(White spokeswoman) Katy Bacon said Perry should 'stop hiding the facts on fiscal issues like what he's charging taxpayers for travel.'"

Today, the White campaign alleged that Perry used secret schedules to cover up his use of state resources for campaign time.

 

Texas Watchdog reported Monday that White used the services of Advantage Travel, which tacked a $35 fee onto each flight booked by the city. Following Texas Watchdog's investigation finding more than $90,000 in fees in a five-year period, Houston Mayor Annise Parker ended the city's relationship with the agency and said the extra fees had been paid for years because of "bureaucratic inertia." Advantage had no contract with the city, so the mayor had the power to halt its use with a simple edict.

 

White also used Advantage to book hotels for himself and his staff in some cases.

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo of a suitcase by flickr user Mamboman1, used via a Creative Commons license.

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