Sometimes documents aren't what they seem.
A spreadsheet detailing how Newport News City Council members dole out $14,000 in so-called table money fits this description.
The documents reviewed by the Daily Press cover spending on tables at galas and banquets and in one instance a trip to Japan with a delegation from Sister Cities of Newport News, Inc.
If one focuses on the bottom lines of these spreadsheets one comes away with the impression that every member of council put at least some money to nonprofit fund-raisers since former City Manager Neal Morgan ushered in the concept of a $2,000-a-member pot of money to cover these costs.
Bateman (2011-2013): $2,000
Coleman (2012-2013: $1,000
McKinley Price (2011-2013): 3,750
Sharon Scott (2011-2013): $2,990
Tina Vick (2011-2013): $250
Joe Whitaker (2011-2013): $2,550
Pat Woodbury (2011-2013): $250
As it turns out, however, the table money is, as they might say in Richmond, "fungible."
Meaning if one council member doesn't spend his or her full $2,000, that money can be used by another member.
That's what happened in October 2012 with Bert Bateman and Rob Coleman, who are both abstemious when it comes to travel spending.
The councilmen ponied up $1,000 and $500 respectively of unused cash to help pay for a Sister Cities trip to Japan. The traveler was Councilwoman Sharon Scott, who would've busted her $2,000 budget if she put the whole trip on her table money tab.
Bateman said his only other table fund expenditure was based on a request from former Morgan. Bateman said he hadn't touched his allotment at that point, and Morgan wanted to use it to make sure the city had a table at a fund-raiser for An Achievable Dream.
There are other facets to the bookkeeping for "table money" that get especially confusing, particularly when one also looks at council members' separately filed travel expense reports.
Some council members who have spent the least when it comes to the table money forms have nevertheless bought benefit tickets on their own dime, and gotten that money reimbursed. Those expenses for the most part don't show up on the table money sheets.
Councilwoman Tina Vick gave $300 to the local Habitat for Humanity group to attend a Fall 2012 gala and a Spring 2013 "Mardi Gras event." She spent $120 on a May Office of Human Affairs banquet; $40 for a ticket to a "Hats Off to Mom" event sponsored by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority; $35 for a debutante's ball in Portsmouth; and $30 for a "Youth Challenge" banquet.
That all comes to $525, and it doesn't show up on the spreadsheet in the Vick column.
Moreover, Vick is the current vice chair of Office of Human Affairs, a local anti-poverty group that’s active on the Peninsula And her daughter, Teunsha Vick — who is running for an open seat on City Council — is an official at the local Habitat for Humanity.
Councilwoman Pat Woodbury, like Vick, appears not to spend any of her table money. And like Vick, Woodbury spent $300 on the two Habitat events.
Finally, the city’s accounting of at least one members table money and travel expenses lines up.
Price's three most recent table purchases totaling $2,000 also show up on his travel expense report.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun