UPDATED: More Snyder administration officials living high on the hog at taxpayers’ expense

This is getting ridiculous

NOTE: See update below.

An explosive report by the Detroit Free Press shows that Scott Woosley, head of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, along with other staffers has racked up huge bills, all paid for by Michigan taxpayers. Travel in stretch limos, $500-a-night hotel accomodations, $40,000 on international trips, all-alcohol “dinners”, and sumptious feasts were uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request by the Michigan Democratic Party who were tipped off by a letter from an anonymous whistleblower.

The head of the state housing authority has rung up tens of thousands of dollars in expenses since taking office in 2012, dining on filet mignon, escargot and foie gras, staying in hotels that cost $400 to $500 a night, and traveling in a stretch limousine, records show…Officials who vet expense vouchers have rejected hundreds of dollars in reimbursements Scott Woosley has sought, such as a $47.60 “dinner” receipt from a Washington, D.C., bar for which the only items consumed were three glasses of 15-year-old El Dorado rum. […]

On Jan. 9, 2013, Woosley and three others had dinner at Brasserie Les Halles on Park Avenue in New York City, the home restaurant of celebrity TV chef Anthony Bourdain. They dined on filet, escargots, foie gras, banana flambe and chocolate mousse. The tab came to $483 and Woosley tried to charge all but the $159 in liquor charges to the state.

This isn’t the first instance of Snyder administration officials living high on the hog at the expensive of Michigan taxpayers:

When it comes to wasteful cronyism in state government, Michigan has it in spades under Rick Snyder.

Progress Michigan is now calling for Gov. Snyder to fire Woosley:

“If this isn’t a blatant abuse of a political position, I don’t know what is,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “I would hope that stretch limos, excessive use of the state’s private plane and hundred dollar lunches aren’t Governor Snyder’s definition of ‘efficient, effective and accountable government.’ The governor needs to do the right thing and remove Woosley from his position. Even more, it is time for the governor to answer why these types of things keep happening in his administration.

“Governor Snyder has a poor history of standing up to cronyism and corruption. He gave treasury officials massive pay raises, didn’t blink an eye when the head of the EAA was abusing taxpayer dollars in a similar fashion, or when Kevyn Orr was feasting on crab cakes and now we have this. It’s time Governor Snyder and his administration were held accountable.”

I’ll go further. I’d say it’s time for the voters of Michigan to fire Rick Snyder and hire someone to replace him who won’t fill the state government with people who waste our precious tax dollars for their own pleasure and comfort.

This has gone beyond ridiculous.

UPDATE: The Michigan Democratic Party has now provided more details about the flagrant abuse of their positions by Woosley and other MSHDA officials:

  • Destinations Istanbul, Turkey and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From November 4, 2013 through November 9, 2013 MSHDA Director Scott Woosley racked up $6,018 in premium-class airfare expenses, submitting reimbursements for trips to Istanbul and Riyadh. He submitted $1,199.99 in reimbursements for stays at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and the InterContinental in Turkey. Meals totaled $1,601.25, including $1,1264.27 for a single day that ended with a $661.34 dinner at the Ritz Carlton. Traveling with Woosley were Moose Scheib, CEO of a mortgage modification company, and Joe Borgstrom, Director of the State of Michigan’s EB-5 center. Total: $9,127.55.
  • Opulent Arabian Nights. From January 27, 2013 to February 7, 2014 Woosley flew premium class to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Cairo, Egypt; Doha, Qatar, and; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, racking up $10,787.02 in airfare reimbursements. He spent two nights at the $540-per-night Ibis Hotel in Dubai as well as other luxury hotels in the region for a total of $3,124 for hotel rooms. In addition, Woosley spent $4,663 on lavish meals including two dinners costing more than $1,000 each. Traveling again with Woosley were Scheib, and Borgstrom. Total: $21,058.12
  • Limousines. Woosley and other MSHDA staff spent more than $3,600.00 on limousine services. In Saudi Arabia, Woosley arranged for his Audi limousine to transport him to the Ritz Carlton. On a trip to Nebraska, Woosley and his staff spent more than seven hours riding across the state in a stretch limo at a rate of $125 per hour, after they accidentally flew to the wrong city.
  • New York, New York. From January 9, 2013 to January 11, 2013 Woosley stayed at the New York Palace hotel on Madison Avenue for $440 a night. He and MSHDA staff members Deanna Anderson, Jeffrey Sykes, and Christopher Lagrand traveled together and dined on escargot, foie gras and French main dishes at celebrity television chef Anthony Bourdain’s Brasserie Les Halles restaurant. They washed it down with a $105 bottle of Cabernet, spending a total of $159 on alcohol. The foursome lunched the next day at the gourmet Indian restaurant, Tamarind, ringing up an additional $135 tab. Total: $2,414.77.
  • Lansing Nights Out. Woosley and MSHDA staff dined at Gilbert & Blake’s in Okemos near Lansing on $535 in food and drinks, including seared ahi tuna, calamari, stuffed pork chops, oysters and filet mignon. On another occasion, Woosley, two MSHDA staffers and MSHDA Republican board member Scott Wierda and Snyder appointee ran up a $621.49 tab at Dusty’s Wine Cellar in Okemos where they dined on seafood, desserts and drank Martinis and Manhattans. Woosley, who lives in the Detroit area, opted to spend the night at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing rather than drive home and was reimbursed for his hotel stay by the state, something that he routinely does not only in Lansing but at Detroit’s Book Cadillac Hotel. Total for the meals alone: $1,156.49.

[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

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  • marsha

    Has anyone priced the cost of an airline ticket or hotels to compare? Most companies have a policy in place for long international flights. We are not talking about a 2 hour flight. Lets take the politics out of it and look at the state’s travel policy for employees.

  • Sharon Douglas

    In addition, let’s look at the need or reason to go to these places. What was the purpose to visit some of the richest places in the middle east? And if – I do say If – the reason was legit, why not use conference call, Skype, or the phone?? Michigan is suppose to be broke and sacrifices are to be made, right?? What does a company’s travel policy have to do with a State Employee’s travel policy. Michigan is not a company. Yet. This is just another political official using our tax dollars to allow him to act like jet setting elite. Dollars that is suppose to go for Michiganders for housing. Not much left for that after this world wide adventure.

  • Chester Marx

    The state has policies in place, but they really aren’t applied…especially to more important officials.

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