commissioners or City Council members taking family members on official
trips, what I did may seem outrageous, or even hypocritical. But I
rationalized that there is a big difference between travel paid for with
taxpayer dollars and my own trip.
Not only was my travel paid for by the newspaper, I paid all the
expenses incurred by my son.
Because I was traveling to report on matters related to the airport
and the City Council, there were many times the excesses I've reported on
in the past came to mind. And I confess right here and now that, more
than occasionally, I'd pay for something and the idea of instead having
taxpayers or my employers pay the freight seemed like it would be a
pretty sweet deal.
The whole episode came about when I booked my airfare. By staying over
a Saturday night, rather than dart in and out of town, I was able to save
the company a fortune on the plane ticket. Such are the rewards of an
empty life. The savings to the newspaper were more than twice the
additional expenses of staying longer.
Since I could spend several days out of town, a luxury public
officials making the same trip didn't have, and given a plane ticket that
was so inexpensive, I realized I could buy a second ticket and my son
could experience a whirlwind tour of the nation's capitol for a song. It
didn't even cross my mind that someone else would pay for that.
By the standards of some public officials, that makes me a sap.
Indeed, when paying bills that were being reimbursed, unlike some former
officials, I didn't even use a credit card that earned me airline miles.
I shared my family travel plan with one of my several dozen bosses,
and didn't get stern memos or excerpts from policy handbooks in response.
In my life, that passes for a ringing endorsement and encouragement from
Mayor Bill Wiggins was on the same flight to Washington as my son and
I. We chatted at the gate, but never spoke after boarding. See, Wiggins
sat closer to the cockpit.
I thought I had my first scoop of the trip, shades of a former era
with a council member flying business class at city expense instead of
coach. But Wiggins paid for his upgrade out of his own pocket. He must be
a sap, too.