Some West Hollywood City Council members have been traveling far and wide (and frequently) according to WEHOville’s latest analysis of travel spending by local politicians.
Data from May 31, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2019, shows City Council members spent a total of $32,378 on travel-related expenses to events such as the annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Tex., the Venice Biennale art show in Italy, and more pedestrian events such as the Southern California Association of Governments meeting in Palm Desert.
That works out to an average of $1,839 a month, however, some Council members did much more travel than others. The top spender was Lindsey Horvath, whose $16,269 in travel expenses to a total of 11 destinations constituted 50% of the total.
Horvath’s farthest trip was to a conference about the use of digital media in city governments that was held in Paris. The Conference was hosted by the mayor of Paris and organized by MossLabs.io of Baltimore. MossLabs’ Justine Fenwick, who is active in California political circles, sent the invitations. After an editorial in WEHOville questioning the city’s funding of such overseas trips, Horvath agreed to pay for her own flight. However, city records show that City Hall did pay $943 for her Paris hotel room and a little over $100 for related travel expenses.
Horvath’s other destinations included Sacramento ($2,720 for League of California Cities meetings), Washington, D.C. ($2,250 for National League of Cities meetings), Rancho Mirage ($1,177 for a League of California Cities meeting). Indian Wells ($1,611 for a California Contract Cities meeting), Minneapolis, Minn. ($1,138 for the Local Progress association meeting), Coronado ($799 for a California Contract Cities Association meeting), Pacific Grove ($768 for a California Community Choice Association conference), Long Beach ($658 for a League of California Cities conference), Atlanta, Ga. ($612 for the NLC Women in Municipal Government meeting), Bridgeport, Conn. ($506 for a National League of Cities Women in Government conference), and Indianapolis, Ind. ($402 for a National League of Cities meeting).
The second biggest spender was Mayor John D’Amico, whose $9,408 in travel expenses made up 29% of the total. D’Amico’s farthest destination was Heidelberg, Germany, for International Conference on Climate Action, followed by a stop in Venice, Italy, to attend the Venice Biennale art show. The organizers of the Heidelberg event paid his travel and hotel expenses and D’Amico said he would pay for his flight to the art show in Venice. However, the City of West Hollywood incurred $1,100 in expenses related to the climate conference and art show visit.
D’Amico’s other destinations included San Francisco ($1,809 for the Global Climate Action Summit), Honolulu, the capital of his home state of Hawaii ($1,806 for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors), Boston ($1,497 for an Urban Land Institute meeting), and Washington, DC ($496 for a meeting of the LGBT Victory Fund, a gay lobbying group).
City Councilmember John Heilman spent $3,898 (12% of the total spending). Heilman traveled to Washington, DC ($3,262 for the LGBT Victory Fund conference, the National League of Cities conference, and a Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce event, and Long Beach for the League of California Cities annual meeting.)
Councilmember John Duran traveled to three destinations, spending a total of $2,523, which is 8% of the overall spending by Council members during the period analyzed by WEHOville. Duran’s travel came to a halt in March when the City Council voted to deny him the right to travel on city business at city expense for one year. That vote was part of the Council’s response to Duran’s controversial public comments about allegations of sexual misbehavior by him. None of his city-funded trips were to events associated with West Hollywood government or local issues.
Duran traveled to Washington, DC ($2,202 to attend a conference of the LGBT Victory Fund), Phoenix ($193 to attend a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials), and Austin, Tex. ($409, with a refund of $282, to attend South by Southwest, the annual film and music event.) The refund was for his airline ticket to Austin, a trip Duran didn’t make because he was ill.
Councilmember Lauren Meister’s travel spending totaled $280, just under one percent of the total spending by City Council members. That money was spent on a trip to Palm Desert to attend the Southern California Association of Governments meeting.
The city reimburses Council members for their travel to attend meetings and events on a standing list approved by the Council. In addition to city government-related meetings such as those of the Southern California Association of Governments and the California Contract Cities Association, it includes events and destinations that align with specific Council members’ political interests (e.g. the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials), issues they have a passion about but have little local significance (the Global Climate Action Summit, the International Conference on Climate Action), and entertainment destinations such as the Venice Biennale in Italy and the South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Tex.
CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this story may have implied that Lindsey Horvath billed the City of West Hollywood for her hotel stay in Paris and incidental travel expenses after the Council decided not to fund that trip. The City Council had agreed to pay for her airfare if she paid the other costs. Also, John Duran did not cancel his trip to Austin, Tex. for the South by Southwest music and film festival because he had been banned by the City Council for traveling at the city’s expense. Duran canceled because of an illness. The ban took place later.