Denver Mayor's pricey trip to Paris attracts little attention

Remember when the media was obsessed with Scott Pruitt’s travel expenses and whether he flew business class or coach? To be sure, those are valid questions to investigate in case taxpayer dollars are being abused, but the story wound up mostly hitting a dead end. Still, if there are any other government officials out there wondering about how they can fly with the elites and not have to reach into their own pockets, they might want to have a chat with Denver’s Democratic mayor, Michael Hancock.

An investigation by the local CBS affiliate found that Hancock, his staff, and a number of officials from the Denver International Airport (DIA) took a very nice trip to France recently and ran up quite the tab. Much of the expense can be attributed to the fact that virtually everyone on the non-stop trip to Paris and beyond flew business class rather than coach and most of the tickets were booked at the last minute, driving up the already hefty fares even further.

A CBS4 Investigation has found some business class flights to Paris last month for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, his appointees and Denver International Airport administrators cost between $7,000 to $9,000 with some roundtrip tickets running nearly $16,000.

“These flights are expensive, and we acknowledge that,” said Stacey Stegman, a spokesperson for Denver International Airport.

CBS4 found two newer DIA employees on the trip, office manager Katie Halbert and DIA travel administrator Katie Houlmiere, flew to Paris on Lufthansa business class at a cost of $8,917.80 each. Their return flights on Lufthansa business class from Paris to Frankfurt to Denver cost $6,734. Meaning the two mid-level administrators round trip flights from Denver to Paris cost $15,651.80.

The stated purpose of the trip was claimed to be (irony alert!) to “celebrate the inaugural trip of low cost airline Norwegian Air, which …offers fares as low as $300 from Denver to Paris.” This trip went to Paris first, ostensibly to receive economic briefings and meet with French industry leaders. The gang then flew to Brest, finishing up with a trip to Normany to visit Omaha Beach. When you add up the cost of this five-night jaunt for 15 municipal government and DIA employees it approaches a quarter million dollars.

Now that CBS has exposed the expenses, this will surely be coming to a stop, right? Perish the thought. The DIA spokesperson says that the policy remains in place and business class flights are required so that the travelers can be “well rested” when they arrive and to ensure they have “time to relax” on the way back.

The Mayor, while admitting the trip was expensive, is quick to point out that “no taxpayer money was involved.” But that’s only true in a very limited and direct view. The airport is an “enterprise” as described in the state constitution and is, in theory, responsible for generating its own revenue and doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars. But that’s something of a smokescreen because the airlines and all the airports rely on government largesse and their infrastructure needs are almost always covered by the taxpayer. And the airport is owned by Denver’s Department of Aviation and governed by the City and County of Denver.

Even if that weren’t the case, the Mayor and all of his staff and DIA cronies aren’t paying for these tickets themselves. They essentially arranged for more than a dozen officials to have a lovely, five-day holiday in France with top level amenities and didn’t have to lay out a dime for it.

Nice work if you can get it.