An eastern Kentucky lawmaker filed for $22,804 in expense reimbursements last year, the most by any state legislator.
State Rep. Keith Hall of Phelps in Pike County racked up the expenses over an eight-month period while lawmakers were not in session.
Hall, a Democrat, had $3,279 more than any other legislator, The Courier-Journal reported.
Hall says expenses were high because he drives about 200 miles one way to Frankfort.
But in some cases, Hall claimed round-trip expenses for mileage and overnight lodging in Frankfort on the same day.
“Sometimes I make two trips a day, literally twice — come to the capital, go back for meetings or groundbreakings or ceremonies (in Phelps), then on back to the capital,” Hall told the newspaper.
“It defies logic to unquestionably accept the idea that someone both stayed at a hotel in town and traveled approximately 400 miles back and forth from home for a number of consecutive days,” said Steven Koven, a government ethics expert at the University of Louisville’s School of Urban and Public Affairs.
Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions said many of Hall’s long commutes and overnight lodgings were unnecessary because he was traveling to Frankfort for personal “legislative workdays,” rather than attending any meeting.
“So much of this is unjustified and unaccounted for,” Waters said. “It’s wasteful spending with no regard to the taxpayer.”
Behind Hall at $22,804, came Rep. Jim Gooch, DProvidence, with $19,525, in second place. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, DPrestonsburg, was third at $17,608.
Hall’s expenses were $14,303 for mileage reimbursement, $6,395 for overnight lodging, $1,821 for meals and $285 for other expenses.
The Courier-Journal obtained records of legislators’ expenses through an Open Records Act for expenses paid to lawmakers while they were not in session between Dec. 1, 2011, and Nov. 30, 2012. The total paid to all 138 lawmakers during the period was $773,443.
LRC Director Bobby Sherman said many lawmakers are constantly driving between Frankfort and their homes while trying to tend to legislative work and their personal business and family responsibilities.
“And knowing that it (the trip claimed) is possible, I pretty much take at face value what they say,” Sherman said. “We believe them, because there’s nothing else that we can do.”