House travel needs checking

At least two members of the Mississippi House of Representatives have filed letters requesting more information about House travel expenditures in the wake of what many consider Mississippi’s own “Travelgate.” The controversy involves the use of taxpayer money to finance a House member’s trip to a political convention under the guise of “education.”

Rep. Rita Martinson has sent a letter to J.K Stringer Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, requesting “Any and all documents related to the submission and approval of travel advance and reimbursement expenses for members of the Mississippi House of Representatives for the period of January 8, 2008 to the present.” She also requested “all documents related to paid discretionary days for any member during the period June 1 to July 31, 2008.”

The letter was dated Aug. 20, 2008. Under the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1893, the department has 14 days to reply.

Another letter, signed by Rep. Martinson and Rep. Michael Janus was sent to House Ethics Committee Chairman Alyce Clarke.

That letter requests “that the Ethics Committee conduct a thorough internal review of these travel advances and/or expenditures…” and goes on to ask “that an examination be made into whether any such expenses were incurred without Management Committee approval during previous years.”

We agree with Rep. Martinson’s and Rep. Janus’ statement that they “believe an internal review and report by (the Ethics Committee) will help to restore public confidence in House approval procedures…”

This is a time when our state needs restoration of confidence in both our legislative process and our judicial system. Operation of both has given Mississippians cause for much concern in the past few years with problems ranging from a beef plant boondoggle costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to judicial bribery pleadings in federal court.

We further think that it would help public confidence if State Auditor Stacey Pickering would look into the matter of House travel expenditures from January 2004 to the present.

Tate County Democrat