The raising of daily meal allowances for out of town travel, which La Villa aldermen gave themselves last week, amounts to nearly five times more than the rate allowed to federal government employees in Texas. And it’s wrong.
There is no justification for aldermen from this small, Delta Valley town to boost per diem rates from $150 per day to $250 per day. We remind aldermen that these expenses are paid from taxpayer funds. And they have been elected by taxpayers and should adhere to a code of conduct and ethics to try to safeguard taxpayer funds, not squander it.
We are disappointed in La Villa Alderman Jorge Lopez who made a motion during last Wednesday’s board meeting to approve the increased per diem rate, which covers meals and incidentals when traveling on business, Monitor reporter Cristina Garcia reported. And we recall how in 2016 then Mayor Hector Elizondo and current aldermen David Palomin, Joe Contreras and Mario Lopez took a nine-day road trip trip to Las Vegas to attend a four-day convention held by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Rather than fly, they each collected per diem, which at the time was $250 per day. That amounted to $9,000 in total per diem expenses, plus mileage and hotel reimbursements, which the citizens of La Villa ended paying for.
After this incident, which The Monitor reported, aldermen voted to lower the per diem rate to $150 per day, but two years later, the board has restored it to this ridiculously higher rate.
Did aldermen think we would not remember how they misused taxpayer funds just two years ago?
And not only did La Villa aldermen approve this increase in per diem rates for all city elected officials, but they also voted to increase daily per diem for all city employees, who travel out of town on business, from $75 to $125 per day.
This is still far higher than the current per diem rate of $51 for meals and incidentals afforded federal employees in Texas. And it’s unnecessary, when as La Villa Mayor Alma Moron told Garcia: “This is our taxpayers’ money that we could use for other projects versus per diem.”
Alderman Mario Lopez told Garcia he has a fear of flying and that is why he drove to Las Vegas. Perhaps that is so. But that does not justify the entire rest of the group riding with him, thus elongating the trip. And if his fear still exists, then will he be planning future road trips and inviting the others along for a ride, at the taxpayers’ expense?