It only took about a week for Mayor Chris Beutler’s office to finally divulge who paid for nine people — including the mayor and city arena contractors — to fly around the Midwest looking at arenas in late October.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
For some reason, Beutler’s office didn’t want to tell me who paid for the trip when I wrote about it a week ago.
However, a reporter isn’t completely helpless when a public official refuses to disclose public information. There’s this thing called the open records law, (Beutler ought to know about this, having been a state senator for like 24 years) and on Monday, I put in what’s called an open records request. That gave the mayor’s office four working days to respond to my request for information about the trip (particularly, who paid for it).
Their deadline is tomorrow. So what did they do today? Gave up the information. To the Journal Star. Touche’!
And now we know the answer: Nelnet paid for the trip. I’m not sure why the trip needed to be paid for by an outside company in the first place, nor why a student loan company would be the one to pay for it, but there it is.
The Journal Star story didn’t say how much the trip cost Nelnet, but did mention how uncomfortable the flight was for two members of the delegation who had to take turns sitting on a toilet in the Nelnet jet.
This is the mayor’s office works. They don’t like the fact that I’ve asked these questions, but they’re backed into a corner by state law, so they strike back by handing the story to the Journal Star.
That’s OK with me, as long as the information gets out. One way or another.
But I still don’t get why they would be flying around looking at the width of seats and “integrating an arena in a brick environment” when 30 percent of the arena design — if not more — was supposed to be done by now. The arena architects have already told us how wide the seats will be and if they haven’t begun to think about how to integrate the arena with the Haymarket, well they’re way behind schedule.
And why was the mayor the only one who didn’t pay for his own hotel room? The city paid for his, according to the J-Star.
But never mind all that. The important thing is that the mayor finally told the public who paid for the trip. Thank you.