By Brittany Anderson
KYLE — Accountability and transparency are key to the success of every government — and Kyle City Council members are trying to ensure that they are upholding their end when it comes to spending and documenting expenses.
On April 19, the council unanimously approved adding monthly reports of expenses incurred on their city council issued credit cards (Purchasing Card), including travel expenses, to their council page on the city of Kyle website.
Council member Daniela Parsley brought the item forward after reviewing documents prior to voting on the city manager’s contract renewal and noticed a significant increase in spending, prompting the request of other credit card expense and reimbursement documents.
The request revealed a larger problem during the meeting. While there is a policy in place that outlines how the council can use their cards, Kyle’s Director of Finance, Perwez Moheet, said that the council is essentially out of his chain of command when it comes to ensuring they are held accountable for their spending.
During discussion on the item, Moheet explained that documentation of council’s expenses — including receipts — is prepared and compiled by the city secretary and city manager’s office, then forwarded to finance for processing. If everything adds up, the city’s accounts payable team processes it for payment.
Moheet asked the council to clarify the policy to include who will review and ensure council members’ compliance and accountability, saying he reports to the city manager and “that is the end of my chain of command.”
“With council members, how do I reject the claim [if something doesn’t add up]?” Moheet said. “The policy doesn’t give me that authority. That’s what I’m asking council for. If it’s not me, give it to the city manager or city attorney … [the policy]needs to be updated and modernized to fit today’s needs of council. It needs to have consequences or some direction to staff to follow up if an elected official does not comply with the policy … It puts us in a very awkward position if one of you says, “I refuse to give you receipts,” and that has happened.”
Per the city council purchasing card policy, updated in June 2019, a receipt is needed for all purchases and must be turned in with the monthly card statement. Purchases such as alcoholic beverages/tobacco products, personal items, loans or cash advances are not allowed, unless granted an exception by the city manager.
The travel policy outlines what council members can use their cards on for transportation, lodging and meals when traveling for city business, such as meetings, conferences and conventions.
Parsley cited her reasoning for bringing the item forward as seeing big discrepancies in what council members spend, which oftentimes don’t have any explanation in the expense statement other than something as general as ‘meals’ or ‘travel.’
“Up until December 16 when I got appointed, I was a normal resident paying taxes. I know my taxes are paying for some of these expenses,” Parsley said. “To me, seeing that some council members seem to spend responsibly, and others do not, was a big red flag … I believe it’s excessive … As a resident, I want to know where my tax money is going and how our elected officials are spending this money.”
Purchases made using the Purchasing Card are to be for official city business related expenditures only. According to documents provided to council during the meeting, which can also be found at www.cityofkyle.com/finance/city-council-expenses, council members spent the following amounts on their Purchasing Cards from 2020 (excluding Parsley, who was elected in December 2021) until February 2022:
- Mayor Travis Mitchell: $4,167.73
- Former Mayor Pro Tem Rick Koch: $10,111.40 (through January 2022)
- Current Mayor Pro Tem Robert Rizo: $971.49
- Ashlee Bradshaw: $2,677.20
- Dex Ellison: N/A
- Yvonne Flores-Cale: $1,580.30
- Daniela C. Parsley: $84.82
- Michael Tobias: N/A
The estimated total amount spent by council members over the last five years using the Purchasing Card is as follows:
- Mayor Mitchell: $9,676.08
- Former MPT Koch: $15,731.63
- Rizo: $2,558.71
- Bradshaw: $3,301.45
- Ellison: $1,932.52
- Flores-Cale: $1,829.09
- Parsley: $112.37
- Tobias: $175
Parsley also pointed out during the meeting that the credit limit on the Purchasing Cards was raised from $1,500 to $5,000 in October 2021, which Moheet confirmed that the increase occurred because a council member had gone over the initial credit limit and the card was declined.
Moheet said that if council members do not want to use the Purchasing Card, they can use their personal credit cards and seek reimbursement from the city. The city reimbursed council members on their personal accounts in the following amounts through March 18, 2022:
- Mitchell: $4,272.42 (2017-2022)
- Former MPT Koch: $2,127.97 (2018-2022)
- Rizo: $72 (2019-2022)
- Bradshaw: N/A
- Ellison: $1,338.52 (2018-2022)
- Flores-Cale: $248.79 (2020-2022)
- Parsley: $27.55 (2021-2022)
- Tobias: N/A
Along with posting council member expenses, Parsley said constituents have reached out to her about having the city manager’s expenses posted on the website as well. Payments made from the city manager’s card on behalf of council members in 2021 are as follows:
- Mitchell: $1,235.93
- Former MPT Koch: $3,492.26
- Rizo: $1,515.22
- Bradshaw: $624.25
- Ellison: $595
- Flores-Cale: $0
- Parsley: $0
- Tobias: $0
Moheet said that the finance department is working to create a special ‘cost center’ for each council office that will have things like line item budgets, council salaries and travel expenses by district, which will be brought forward in the proposed 2022-23 city budget.
Both the original motion to add monthly expense reports to the city website and an amendment to include direction to staff to bring back the council expense policy for review and adoption carried unanimously.
“As we sit up here as council members, we are no different or better than staff,” council member Yvonne Flores-Cale said prior to the votes. “We are elected and that’s where it ends. We are the leaders of the city and we set the standard … We are not trying to cause trouble. I’m not trying to be ugly. I’m trying to bring transparency and honesty. Accountability is important as we sit up here as leaders.”