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Expense issue back in Troutdale

The Troutdale City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 13, agreed with proposed changes to the municipal code regarding which expenses the city will reimburse the mayor and councilors.

Under the proposed changes, the mayor and city councilors will be reimbursed for expenses related to attending the League of Oregon Cities and the Oregon Mayors Association's annual conferences. All other reimbursement requests must be pre-approved by the City Council or come from their personal stipends.

The City Council has previously criticized Mayor Jim Kight for requesting reimbursement for all of his travel-related expenses outside the city, including short trips to Gresham, Fairview and Wood Village. Councilors noted that the mayor and city councilors' personal stipends should cover most expenses for city business.

The mayor receives a stipend of $500 a month, and city councilors receive $50 a month if they elect to take them. Mileage is currently reimbursed at 51 cents a mile; all reimbursement requests have to be approved by the city's finance director.

The proposed changes delete the line that the mayor and councilors can be reimbursed for expenses when conducting city business or when attending an event in an official capacity.

Although the council expenses section of the Troutdale Municipal Code was last amended in May 2010 to provide further clarification of which expenses were eligible for reimbursement, Council President Doug Daoust said there's still confusion and that questionable reimbursements have been made.

The council plans to vote on the ordinance at its next meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The issue was brought up in the City Council's censure of Kight in May. The City Council criticized Kight for requesting reimbursements for expenses that do not qualify under the current code and for increasing the dollar amount of his claims, 'putting the Finance Director in an awkward position.'

Daoust told The Outlook in June that he and two members of the budget committee had reviewed Kight's reimbursement requests over the nine months prior to April 2011 and found that more than half of them, totaling $864, should not have been reimbursed. He noted that many of Kight's reimbursement requests did not include a description of the meeting's purpose or why it was relevant to Troutdale's interests.

Kight had defended his reimbursement requests as part of his job to carry out city business around the region, but he noted at a June 15 council meeting that the current code was vague and open to interpretation.

'I don't think there's any ambiguity about this,' Daoust said about the amendments, 'although we shall see.'

Kight's accessory structure issue resurfaces

Another issue from the City Council's censure of Kight regarding the controversial construction of an accessory structure on Kight's personal property also resurfaced at the meeting.

Ken Prickett, a former Troutdale building official, said he had reviewed the structure's plans submitted to the city and its building permits and found several problems and issues.

He compiled his findings and passed them out to the City Council at the Tuesday meeting.

The City Council plans to review and discuss the documents at a future meeting.