Delaware state treasurer Chip Flowers says he will reimburse the state almost $1,000 for travel-related expenses but denies that he has ever used his state credit card or state funds for personal expenses.
Flowers announced the reimbursements Wednesday at a news conference he called to address what he described as "serious inaccuracies'' in media reports about travel spending in his office. The Democratic treasurer did not provide any examples of inaccuracies but instead blamed unnamed political critics for falsely accusing him of using state funds inappropriately.
"I think the best way to alleviate the misconceptions is to show people the documents," Flowers said. "So that's what we're going to do."
Last October, an article in the Delaware News Journal accused Flowers of using the card for personal expenses, including large room service breakfasts while attending a conference in Alaska in September of last year. Flowers was with Erika Benner, a top Delaware deputy who stepped down after she admitted to using her state credit card to pay for New England Patriots tickets as well as car service to the game.
The News Journal also accused Flowers and Benner of extending their stay in Alaska.
In light of the article, Flowers spoke out and defended himself, calling the News Journal article unfair and inaccurate.
“Government is about integrity and knowledge,” Flowers said. “If people can’t get that knowledge and integrity from their newspaper then why have one?”
Flowers claimed he had meetings during his extended days in Alaska. He also said the article implies he was romantically involved with Benner and that he was cheating the state. He denies both claims.
“That goes to the integrity of the office,” Flowers said. “People say Chip Flowers is using taxpayer money on his trips. That’s a lie.”
Last month, Flowers sent out a press release with a photo of a check.
“The amount of the check covered the cost of the Treasurer's trip including airfare, meals, lodging, and registration (it does not include costs incurred by Treasurer Flowers during his free time - which costs were paid by Treasurer Flowers personally),” a spokesperson wrote.
According to the spokesperson, the check shows that the conference was not paid for by Delaware taxpayers.
Flowers also blamed "confusion'' about travel records on mistakes made by a former treasury fiscal officer who has since retired.
In light of the controversy, Flowers says he will be much more aware of state travel guidelines.
"If I'm at a business meeting, working to make money for the state of Delaware, and I order three pancakes and the reimbursement only allows two pancakes, the last flapjack is on me," he said.
The planned reimbursements include $460.80 for the Alaska trip, even though Flowers says he was on official business the entire trip.