Tualatin City Council to probe travel expenses
Panel may examine taxpayers' investment
The city of Tualatin will be taking a closer look at its expense policies for city officials following public scrutiny of Mayor Lou Ogden's travel expenses.
During Monday night's work session, City Councilor Joelle Davis proposed the formation of a committee to review city ordinances, policies and procedures about the council's management and practices.
'I think it's been a while since some of these things have been looked into, and it's not a bad thing to take a look at them every now and then,' Davis told other Tualatin leaders.
This suggestion surfaced in the wake of a series of articles published by The Oregonian on Saturday, analyzing Ogden's travel expenses which, budgeted at $20,000 per year, exceed those of any other mayor in the county.
'This is something I've been thinking about for a while,' Davis said of her suggestion to the council. 'This is not necessarily a new development.
'In the four years I've been on council, we have not reviewed those ordinances, policies or procedures. I've been involved in business, and it's good practice to periodically make sure you're optimizing everything...that we have a process that's efficient and transparent, so that it's easy for us and the public to understand.'
Davis and Council President Monique Beikman declined to comment on the content of the articles picked up by other media outlets.
While all council members agreed the establishment of a review committee would be wise, they decided to wait on any plans or decisions until Mayor Ogden returns from his latest out-of-state conference. The discussion will continue at the next council work session on April 9, just prior to the beginning of the city's annual budget process later next month.
'This is an opportune time if we were trying to make changes in budget processes, processes for attendance (and) anything around the way council is managed,' Davis said.
While the rest of the city council met in Tualatin, the mayor was on his way to meet presidential cabinet members in Washington, D.C., with the National League of Cities.
As mayor, Ogden has been an active League member for years. His involvement often takes him out of state, having attended 19 out-of-state conferences between 2009 and 2011, according to his work calendar which was obtained by The Times.
Some community members claim the resulting travel expenses are excessive and criticize the city for not properly reviewing charges before issuing reimbursements.
Ogden was disheartened Tuesday by claims that he was spending too much of taxpayers' money to represent Tualatin at national conferences and seminars.
'If I thought it was extravagant, I wouldn't be doing it,' Ogden said. He argued that, from a personal financial standpoint, his time would be better spent working on his independent insurance business, rather than attending conferences.
'If I don't work, I don't get paid,' Ogden said of his business.
As mayor of Tualatin, Ogden does not receive a salary. For his service, the city pays $1,353.23 a month for his health insurance, gives him a $20 discount on his city water bill and provides a phone/Internet service stipend.
'When I ran for office, what seemed to me to be the most important thing was transportation,' he said. 'When I joined the National League of Cities, I joined the transportation committee, then I became committee chair, then (I obtained a seat on) the board of directors (and) now I'm on the advisory council. That's just the way I do things.
'This is all for the benefit of this community.'
The mayor said he's only ever received support from the City Council and city staff about his involvement with the National League of Cities. He plans on talking with the council about exactly what level of involvement Tualatin should invest in the League in the future.