Port of Houston hosts swanky party hours after vote to curtail entertainment spending

May 8, 2013 4:22:27 PM PDT
We are entering the final days of a Port of Houston reform effort sparked by a series of 13 Undercover investigations. Big changes are on the way. The only questions now are how and when Austin lawmakers will force the port to act.

The state senate passed its version of the port reform bill Wednesday morning. The house passed theirs a few weeks ago. The key difference between the two is how quickly port commissioners have to leave office.

The last time we checked in on the port we were caught in their tangled web of explanations of who paid for what when commissioners partied on your dime. Now we know, and it might be yet another example of why the port got into this mess in the first place.

Two things happened for the Port of Houston on February 26: In the afternoon, they passed a new policy to curtail entertainment expenses. And just hours later, the port threw a party at downtown's swankiest hotel.

Ironic? Yeah, a little bit. Uncomfortable for the port when we crashed the party? Absolutely.

Remember, the port is under investigation for mismanagement and repeatedly spending your money in embarrassing ways. With several Austin lawmakers proposing to fire port commissioners, the pressure to change is more intense now than ever before. It may be why the port fumbled and bumbled and mumbled when we asked who paid the bill.

At first, the port said it was public money. Then the port sent a late afternoon email saying unnamed "industry partners" were picking up the tab. We were skeptical, but took them at their word. A few days later, though, they admitted it was you who paid for it all.

More than $11,000 of public port money to say thank you to a port commissioner who retired this year after seven years of service. Houston's mayor was there, the county judge too, along with all sorts of port executives and appointed commissioners. They're the same ones who just hours before passed that new spending policy.

This, however, was still allowed: $1,500 Worth of Italian cold cuts and veggies; $1,700 For brie, double Gloucester, stilton and Havarti with dill.

But don't fill up on the small stuff. You sprang for a $875 roasted steamship round of beef. We called around to find one to show you but it's too big for a butcher to make without getting paid first, and our bosses don't pay $875 for beef -- that's reserved apparently for when the port spends your money.

Since that party, the port has seemed to slow down spending your money on parties.

Some of the events that were on earlier port calendars have been postponed or canceled altogether.
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