Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 20, 2013

CITY SPENDING: Dyster defends travel costs


Niagara Gazette — “That was just a tremendous opportunity for us,” the mayor said. “I don’t think we would have been nearly as competitive in that process, had we not attended those conferences.”

Recognizing the city’s financial circumstances, Dyster said he and Owens stopped attending summer conferences for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and New York Conference of Mayors, which often take place in resort towns. They now only attend winter meetings for those organizations in Washington, D.C. and Albany respectively.

Dyster said that although he continued go to the conferences during the spending freeze he rarely used his per diem to buy food, and instead paid for his meals out of pocket.

“I try not to (use my per diem),” Dyster said. “If I can afford to pay for it, I do.”

During their January trip to Washington, D.C., Dyster and Owens attended the Mayors Innovation Project meeting, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, an advocacy day for the gun control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns as well as the presidential inauguration. Records show the following expenses were charged to Dyster’s city-issued American Express card during that trip:

• $3,860 worth of lodging costs between the Topaz Hotel and the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C.

• $307.20 for two round-trip plane tickets from the Buffalo International Airport to Baltimore Washington International Airport for he and Owens.

• $103.31 for long-term parking at the Buffalo airport.

• $95 in cab fares.

•  A $66 room service charge — included in the total cost of lodging listed above — for a breakfast at the Capitol Hilton that included a bagel with smoked salmon, a small pot of coffee and two juices. Dyster included a $10 tip on the bill which already had an 18 percent gratuity charge.

Dyster and Owens paid for their hotel stays from the end of the U.S. Conference of Mayors through the inauguration.

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