We requested all City Council expenditures between January 1 and October 5 of this year. What we got was more than 300 pages of receipts for everything from travel expenses, to catered lunches to pictures frames for council members' offices.
Each council member gets paid $25.00 a month and receives a car allowance, cell phone allowance and has the option to use an iPad with a data plan paid for by the city. Those costs were not included in our calculations.
Our documents show taxpayers spent more than $10,000 on catering food for City Council meetings. The primary caterer was Honey Child Catering, who provided breakfast and lunch to council members and three dozen staffers for each bi-monthly morning council meeting. Food for each meeting reached nearly $500.00.
Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson said the catering costs is one reason he pushed to move to night meetings. Now, he said, the council will have dinner brought in from a sandwich shop-- usually Jason's Deli.
Other council members spend tax dollars on lunches for themselves, too. Records show Councilman Victor Hernandez ate lunch at local restaurants at least 11 times on the taxpayers' time-- more than any other member of the council.
We spoke with Hernandez by phone Monday but he declined to comment for our story. Instead, he posted on Facebook telling supporters he was being included in a KAMC Investigates piece and defended his spending by saying the average cost of one of his meals is around $10.00.
Receipts also show Hernandez had a city staffer buy him a $250.00 picture frame for his office.
Robertson said its up to individual council members to police their own spending.
"There's not a good written policy on meals, on travel, on car reimbursement," Robertson explained. "It's pretty much an honor system."
The Mayor said he has lunches to discuss city-related business three to four times a week but doesn't usually charge them to the taxpayers.
Our investigation found, though, that Robertson spent $1,200.00 on a new chair in his office.
When we interviewed Robertson last Thursday, he said he asked City Manager Le Ann Dumbauld to have staff buy him a new chair but he didn't know how much it cost until we told him.
Neither Robertson nor Hernandez had any idea how much council members spent each year when we talked with them.
Mayor Robertson said our story has prompted him to look at the numbers himself and bring the issue before the entire City Council.