KFDM Investigates: Port Arthur city councilwoman's travel at taxpayers' expense

KFDM Investigates: Port Arthur city councilwoman's travel at taxpayers' expense

A first-term Port Arthur city councilwoman seeking re-election is not touting one of her most significant achievements.

In just over two-and-a-half years in office, Tiffany Hamilton has become the council's biggest spender on travel, leaving many taxpayers wondering what they're getting from councilwoman Hamilton's trips at their expense.

According to records that KFDM obtained from Port Arthur City Hall since August 2014, Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton has spent more than $31,132.37 of taxpayer dollars on travel.

That's a fourth of what the entire nine-member council spent on travel combined during the same time period. The entire council spent $126,116.58 on travel from 2014 to the present day. By comparison, Jefferson County commissioners spend $76,174.85.

But the councilwoman says she has no regrets and wonders why other council members are not traveling more to promote the city and what it has to offer.

Councilwoman Hamilton has gone on 19 city-related trips throughout the nation. Austin, Nashville, Fort Lauderdale, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. are just a few of her destinations.

One trip that has alarmed some of her constituents is her trip to Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. She is not a mayor, but Hamilton says the conference is open to council members, police chiefs and other city leaders.

In March 2015, Hamilton traveled to both Austin and Washington D.C. within three days of each other.

Most times Hamilton traveled with other council members, but seven times she traveled alone. Two of those solo trips were to the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, which cost taxpayers $3,216.97.

Hamilton claims the trips, especially to the Texas Municipal League and to the National League of Cities, have made her a better councilwoman.

She says she learned how to communicate during a crisis, and met some of the industry leaders who were invited to Port Arthur to help the city grow.

We checked and there's hardly been any job growth in Port Arthur the past three years.

The unemployment rate in the city when Hamilton took office in August 2014 was 11.7%, now it's 11.8%.

Councilwoman Hamilton tells us she's open to presenting a formal report to citizens after each trip about the city gained from her travels.

City Manager Brian McDougal says the travel policy for council members is set by them, so any changes are up to the city council. Council votes on approving expenditures after the trip has been made.

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