In an apparent about-face from her public pronouncement that she – and not taxpayers – paid for them, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower last week submitted an expense report of her June trip to Basel, Switzerland, asking the city to reimburse her for the expenses she incurred.
Documents obtained from City Hall by the SunPost show that the mayor’s submission, dated Wed., July 11, accounts for travel, hotel, and meal expenses totaling $5,986.
Bower was part of a city delegation – comprised also of former city manager Jorge Gonzalez, his wife and two children, and the city’s public art coordinator, Dennis Leyva – that visited Miami Beach’s sister city Art Basel fair in Switzerland June 11-15.
Such junkets have become customary in recent years, as a reciprocal token of support by both sister cities and to promote their shared Art Basel concept, which has fast grown to become one of Miami Beach’s largest annual revenue generators.
Also customary – yet highly controversial – has been Beach taxpayers’ swallowing of the cost of such junkets by the mayor, manager, and others who jet off to Basel, sometimes including commissioners and spouses.
Last week’s filing, however, would appear to contradict her public statement nine days earlier to a banquet room filled with over a hundred city employees in which she claimed her Basel trip was “paid by us” – referring to those, including Gonzalez, who composed her small delegation.
That day, at a farewell luncheon in Gonzalez’s honor, she told the audience that “I just came back from a holiday with the [Gonzalez] family – Leslie, children, Jorge – paid by us just in case you are thinking about it.”
When word got out of Gonzalez’s inclusion on the junket – within weeks of his July 8 resignation taking effect – public dismay was stirred up in some quarters, with critics blasting his taking a trip on the public dime less than a month after commissioners approved his resignation-under-fire.
The city said mid-week that his expense report was still pending.