Documents released by the city of Killeen this month show that five area cities picked up the $16,000 tab for a dinner — which included alcohol — in Washington, D.C., in October 2011.
The 2011 Association of the United States Army conference was one of several occasions on which Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison broke state finance laws and city policies, fired Killeen finance director Barbara Gonzales claims in her lawsuit against the city.
The total trip, including the dinner, cost taxpayers nearly $20,000.
Gonzales’ lawsuit, filed under the Texas Whistleblower Act, alleges Morrison authorized Killeen’s $6,000 portion of the dinner without her approval and violated a city policy prohibiting the purchase of alcohol.
City officials deny any wrongdoing.
“The city of Killeen looks forward to its opportunity to present facts in a court of law, which will prove the allegations being made are false,” city spokeswoman Hilary Shine said.
The $90-a-plate dinner at the 901 Restaurant and Bar, a mile away from the National Mall, served 180 guests, including “federal officials and other dignitaries,” Shine said.
“The five cities joined together to host an evening including dinner and bar service at a restaurant for the approximately 100 soldiers from Fort Hood who were attending the AUSA conference,” she said.
Killeen paid the up-front $10,500 cost for the dinner, and the cities of Copperas Cove, Belton, Harker Heights and Temple reimbursed Killeen $2,500 each, according to the invoices.
Morrison paid an additional $5,500 on his personal credit card, including a gratuity of $916, for which he was later reimbursed by the city.
Killeen paid $6,000 for the event, which included food, beverage, gratuity and charge for the rental of a PA system, Shine said.
According to Texas Government Code 252.0215, purchases over $3,000 require competitive bidding, unless other exemptions are presented by department heads. Gonzales was head of the Purchasing Department at the time.
The city did not deny that alcohol was served at the dinner.
“There is no written policy regarding the purchase of alcohol,” Shine said.
Gonzales’ attorney, Bill Aleshire, provided the Herald with a copy of the city’s “Purchasing Card Program.” The Herald requested a copy of the policy from the city as well on Friday, but city officials did not provide it.
The document from Aleshire states that certain types of merchants are blocked from p-card usage, including, “but not limited to, liquor sales, bars and lounges, adult entertainment facilities, etc.”
Although Morrison placed the $5,500 on his personal credit card and was reimbursed by the city, Aleshire said he still violated city policy.
“Morrison selected that restaurant and bar without taking competitive proposals,” Aleshire said.
“In addition to the specific prohibition against alcohol purchases, as director of finance, Ms. Gonzales felt that using thousands of city tax dollars to purchase alcohol looked bad and would violate the ethical standards in the purchasing policy,” the lawyer said.
Additional invoices provided by the city via the Texas Freedom of Information Act showed city officials spent an additional $13,500 for accommodations, per diem and flights for three city employees and two council members.
Morrison, Shine, Assistant City Manager John Sutton — then airport director — Scott Cosper, who was mayor pro tem at the time, and then-Mayor Timothy Hancock all traveled at the city’s expense.
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552