(January 12, 2003) -- Third district Councilman Frank Colonna, elected Vice Mayor by his City Council colleagues in July 2002, tops the list of LB's costliest Councilmembers from Oct. 1/01-Sept. 30/02, consuming a record-breaking $371,157 in LB taxpayer resources to run his Council office, roughly 47% more than the most frugal Council office (9th district).
Running a close second was sixth district Councilwoman Laura Richardson, whose office consumed $369,817 in taxpayer resources during the same 12 month period. A data printout generated by City Hall indicates LB taxpayers paid to provide her with a city fleet vehicle consuming $15,790 during the just concluded fiscal year, the highest of any Council office.
In FY 00-01, Councilman Colonna also topped the list of costliest Council offices, budgeting $338,191 and spending roughly $336,330. In FY 01-02, Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Colonna raised his budgeted office costs to $398,574, the highest on the Council.
In FY 00-01, Councilwoman Richardson's budgeted office cost was among the more frugal, ranking 7 among 9 Council offices...but ended up exceeding its budgeted amount ($278,008) by roughly $86,000. In FY 01-02, Councilwoman Richardson boosted her budgeted amount by 32.3% to $387,931, the second most costly among all Council offices.
The data are contained in documents disclosed by City Hall in response to a state freedom of information (Public Records Act) request by Gigi Fast Elk Bannister, who was joined in reviewing the documents by ThisLand political action committee chair and 4th district resident Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.
The documents, subsequently obtained by LBReport.com, show that while City Hall blames the Sept. 11/01 terrorist attacks and an economic downturn for its budget crisis, most Councilmembers responded to those developments by ballooning their office spending, most by levels exceeding inflation.
The sole exception was 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal...whose FY 01-02 spending marginally declined from FY 00-01 spending. The office ended up spending roughly $11,400 less in FY 01-02 than had been budgeted for FY 00-01.
Mayor O'Neill also overshot her budget, budgeting $837,261 to run her office in FY 01-02 and spending $854,980, an increase of 5.2% over what she spent a year earlier.
Data are sourced to October 7, 2002 computer print outs covering the offices of Mayor and all nine Council districts, entitled, "Expenditures by Dept., Bureau, Fund, Char., Subobject" indicated for the fiscal period ending Sept. 2002 (FY 01-02).
In the public interest, LBReport.com posts below a chart ranking Councilmembers' spending for their offices from the most costly to the most frugal, along with some items we found noteworthy. (Data for districts 7 and 9 reflect about 9.5 months under former Councilmembers Grabinski and Shultz and 2.5 months under current Councilmembers Uranga and Lerch, the latter were not in office for the Council's Sept. 01 budget vote.)
In a process that could leave some businesspeople envious or bankrupt, LB Councilmembers and the Mayor decide how much they want to spend to run their offices...and then collectively vote to give themselves (and each other) this amount when they adopt the city's annual spending budget. Although Councilmembers' salaries are the same, the cost of resources consumed by their offices varies widely. One major factor is the number of office staffers a Councilmember wants in his/her office.
Some perks, traditionally bestowed on Councilmembers by themselves, have drawn taxpayer ire in the past and (as reported by LBReport.com) in City Hall's recent "Voice Your Choice" survey. Councilmembers take either a flat auto allowance ($450 per month, amounts to $5,400 per year) for costs of driving on city business (or can seek reimbursement at .31/mile)...or drive a city-owned car from the city's taxpayer purchased and maintained fleet.
Four Councilmembers and the Mayor take the car:
1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal: 2000 Chrysler 300 M (purchased used her office reminds us)
2d district Councilman Dan Baker: Saturn L 300 (staff estimates year as 01 or 02)
6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson: White Ford expedition.
8th district Councilman Rob Webb: 2001 Chrysler Sebring.
Mayor O'Neill: Toyota Avalon (staff estimates 1997-98)
4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll didn't take a car or an auto allowance. (An office staffer receives a mileage reimbursement.)
Stories claiming the Mayor and/or Councilmembers drive city provided Lincoln Town Cars are urban mythology.
Mayoral and Council office staff don't get cars but may be reimbursed via a monthly auto allowance or mileage reimbursement. ..although Council staffers in the 5th and 9th district offices don't take an auto allowance or a mileage reimbursement.