Audit critical of Mayor Alvin Brown's travel

By Jim Piggott, General assignment reporter, jpiggott@wjxt.com
News4Jax.com Staff, webteam@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:38:20 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 01 2014 10:04:46 PM EDT

Mayor Alvin Brown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

An audit initiated after the Council Auditor's Office found insufficient documentation of credit card use during 82 trips by the Mayor's Office found unapproved travel, prohibited payments, undisclosed gifts and trips canceled or rescheduled, running up additional costs.

The Mayor's Office says these problems occurred in the first year of Alvin Brown's term, the problems have been addressed and are no longer an issue.

The audit covered 82 trips taken during Mayor Alvin Brown's first 15 months in office by the mayor or members of his staff.  According to the report, the city spent $78,056 in travel expenses over the period, which does not include travel paid by outside agencies.

The audit found numerous issues, including missing or insufficient documentation of trips where the "public purpose for travel was vague or not noted."

In addition to sloppy, inaccurate, late or unsigned travel documents, the audit noted several cases when the mode of travel was not the most economical or they did not minimize the cost of changing travel bookings.

Audit of Mayor's Office travel expenses | Response by mayor's chief of staff

The audit also shows the travel expenses in Brown's first 15 months were more than three times that of equivalent periods of the previous administration.

In its conclusion, the auditor recommended the Mayor's Office comply with the city's municipal code and state law.

"Additionally, we recommend that any payments from outside organizations, vendors and lobbyists be made to the city and not directly accepted by the mayor," Council Auditor Kirk Sherman wrote. "Proper documentation should be on file for all trips conducted by the mayor and the mayor's staff to ensure that travel expenses are accurately reported in a transparent manner."

The mayor's office responded to the audit, saying it "fully agrees with the spirit of this recommendation," adding it has already added an honorarium-related event expense registry on the city's website.

Brown also initiated a review of mayoral and staff travel in the spring of 2012 to enhance review of travel forms, create checklists to ensure property documentation and conducted training with employees.

"The mayor has traveled is to advance city priorities like economic development," said Chris Hand, the mayor's chief of staff. "For example ... the mayor's travel landed a major manufacturing contract at Jacksonville International Airport by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. That is worth millions economic investment. Also the mayor's travel helped land a $10 million Department of Transportation grant for JaxPort."

"One of the things that you get back from the administration is, that this occurred in the first 16 months of their administration, but we're still getting feedback from them that they're a - new - administration," said Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County’s John Hinkley. "And perhaps they'll get some of these things right in a second term. Well I'm sorry 3 years is plenty of time to finally start to get things, if not done absolutely correctly, then at least, do it competently." 

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