News - Charles Phillips

For taking College Park on a joyride

Over the past year, College Park City Councilman Charles Phillips has burned through almost $20,000 in travel expenses. That's not a shockingly high figure in this age of Enron-esque waste. But when you look at the dollar amount that the rest of the City Council has billed to College Park taxpayers for travel expenses, Phillips looks like a freeloading jetsetter. Especially since he bills College Park for letting his wife tag along on his jaunts, too.

In the past year, Phillips and his wife have cost the city $19,029 for eight trips. The other three council members combined have only taken six trips in that time, at a total cost of $9,721.12.

Phillips did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

One could argue, we suppose, that Phillips is simply doing his civic duty, striving to be the best city councilman he can be by attending conferences (with his wife) on leadership (in Sonoma County, California's wine country), minority entrepreneurship (in D.C., where the couple ate $660 worth of food), and city governance (in Opryland, where they slept for six nights in a $195-a-night room).

If that's the case, attaboy Phillips.

But — you knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you? — considering Phillips' previous disregard for taxpayer money, it's possible he considers College Park's travel budget to be fun-money.

In 2000, Phillips sued the city of College Park and its mayor, Jack Longino, over the way one of his votes as a councilman was interpreted. The city's charter counts an abstention as a "yes." Phillips refused to vote on whether the city should spend $12.5 million on a new public safety building. Longino counted that as a yes vote, as required by law, and Phillips filed a lawsuit claiming that the mayor couldn't change his vote.

Four years later, construction of the public safety building, which will house the city's police and fire departments, hasn't begun — in part because of Phillips' lawsuit. Delays and legal fees stemming from the litigation have tacked on about $1 million to the city's cost of the building, according to College Park officials.

With friends like Phillips, College Park doesn't need anybody else to drain the tax base for all its worth.

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