Montgomery councilmembers spent thousands on food last year -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County Council members recently tried to live on $25 for five days’ worth of meals to raise awareness of poverty.

Last year, some taxpayer-funded meals for the council cost much more, per person.

The council spent more than $1,000 on six meals, with guests, in 2012. Each meal cost taxpayers anywhere from $11 to $26 per person.

Individually, council members spent even more.

Council Staff Director Stephen Farber said the council as a whole spent $1,090.73 to host one breakfast and five lunches with guests, including the Montgomery County Board of Education, the Montgomery County Planning Board, U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville and U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington.

Only council members and their guests were served at the meals, Farber said. Staff members were not fed.

At $266, lunch with Cardin cost taxpayers the most and was the most costly meal per person. The nine council members and Cardin ate.

At $122.75, breakfast with Van Hollen cost the least. Three lunches with the board of education cost $586.38 and lunch with the planning board ran $155.60.

Besides money for entertaining guests as a full council, Farber said, council members can spend money in their own budgets on meals.

“Council members have an office budget which they use for their staff and for operating expenses, but it’s a fixed amount,” he said. “They live within that budget.”

Between community and other lunch or dinner meetings, council members spent $3,122 in calendar year 2012.

Councilmen George L. Leventhal and Roger Berliner spent the most of any council members. Leventhal spent $1,556 and Berliner spent $1,151, according to data provided by council spokesman Neil Greenberger.

Greenberger said the cost of a transportation summit in Annapolis in December was included in those amounts.

Of the $1,151 Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda spent, $857 covered half of the transportation summit, a BCC Career Day lunch and the Neighborhood Leaders Breakfast, Greenberger noted.

The $1,556 spent by Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park paid for half of the transportation summit, a meeting with the Healthy Montgomery Steering Committee, the annual meeting with Health and Human Services boards and committees, and an African-American discussion, Greenberger noted.

Council members Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park did not spend from their budgets on food, according to Greenberger.

Of the other council members who spent money on food, Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring spent the least, $104.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring spent $152 and Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park spent $159.