Tyroch and a Hard Place
Tue April 1, 2008 4:10 pm

The temperature continues to rise in the House District 55 runoff between Ralph Sheffield and Martha Tyroch. My last post was about Sheffield's long history of tax liens resulting from his nonpayment of taxes. Now, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Empower Texans PAC are criticizing Tyroch for lavish spending of city of Temple tax dollars while traveling on city council business. This item appears today on the Empower Texans Web site:

Martha Tyroch, a candidate for State Representative in HD55, has a disturbing pattern of charging taxpayers for luxury accommodations and lavish dinners.

In 2005, Tyroch booked a suite at the exclusive Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. for a cost of over $450 per night, even as the list of hotels recommended to attendees of the conference started at $145 per night. She even billed taxpayers for a meal at a posh D.C. restaurant that cost over $1000, including $300 in alcohol. All of these expenses were paid for by city of Temple tax funds and they are part of a greater pattern of lavish personal spending by Martha Tyroch as a member of the Temple City Council. “It appears that Martha Tyroch has no regard for protecting your taxpayers dollars,” said Michael Sullivan. “Martha appears to pay for travel, hotels and food for her friends and herself – including staying in luxury suites in Washington D.C. and hosting lavish dinners, costing thousands of dollars. It’s no wonder Martha voted to increase spending on government by 114%: she needed the extra money to support her spending habit.”

Sullivan added, “Empower Texans looks for waste and fraud in government, but the amounts and frequency of Martha’s overspending are staggering. It’s one of the worst cases of taxpayer abuse I’ve seen. The people of Temple should be outraged at these charges.”

“At the very least, Martha should reimburse the City of Temple for the thousands in liquor that she billed to taxpayers,” said Sullivan. “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for a Tyroch Happy Hour.”

“I have only reviewed three years of her spending, from 2005 to 2007, but the pattern is very troubling. Martha needs to come clean about her expenses. At a minimum she should reimburse the city for the costs of alcohol that she charged to taxpayers.”

Martha’s spending didn’t just extend to lavish hotels and meals. She billed taxpayers $30 for a seven block cab ride in Washington D.C., even as Washington cab drivers must charge a flat rate and are prohibited from charging so much for such a short ride. According to the official Washington D.C. Taxi Fare Calculator (http://citizenatlas.dc.gov/atlasapps/taxifare.aspx), the cost billed to taxpayers should have only been $7.50.

“Are taxpayers supposed to believe Martha had taxpayers give a $22.50 tip?” asked Sullivan.

"On another trip to D.C., Martha, traveling with her husband Jerry, ordered room service and billed it to the taxpayers. Tyroch has a pattern of upgrading the hotel room for out-of-town travel, similar to the Mayflower example listed above."* * * * *

I'm kind of partial to the Mayflower myself, because it has a great location on Connecticut Avenue, and you can walk out the front door, take a few steps, and catch the Metro. But it got to be so expensive I couldn't justify staying there any more on Texas Monthly's dime.

I think public officials should pay close attention to how they spend tax dollars on government programs. But I don't think that they should have to justify every personal expense while traveling on public business.

Whenever a politician has to explain herself, that's never good. But I'll will say this: $145 won't buy you much of a hotel room in central Washington. Nor do I see anything wrong with ordering room service. Maybe Tyroch was tired after a long day of running around Washington. Been there, done that. Maybe the reason that she stayed at the Mayflower was that it was hosting the event she was attending. Maybe the reason for the lavish dinner party was city business and the big shots she invited wanted to drink wine. Maybe she was the guest and didn't want to let her dinner companions buy her meal, because she felt it would be more ethical to pay for the dinner. I don't know the details, of course, and I bet that Michael Quinn Sullivan doesn't either. Several of the expenditures do look pretty high; it's that taxi ride that really gives the impression she's padding her expenses. But there is a certain "When in Rome" aspect to doing business in Washington. If you want something from somebody, you don't get it by saying, "I'm sorry, but I can't really pay for wine with tax dollars. How about some tea?"

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