AP reporter John Miller reports that state Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa must return more than $2,400 in inappropriate mileage reimbursements for travel from his Nampa home to the state Capitol during the legislative session, when he also was getting reimbursed for maintaining a second residence in Boise during the session, while actually sleeping on the couch at his Boise law office. McKenzie said he was unaware he was also getting the mileage reimbursement, and didn't ask for it; click below for Miller's full report. Before that news came out, McKenzie sent a guest opinion to the Idaho Statesman defending his per diem use; you can read it here at Kevin Richert's blog. It says, in part, "The suggestion that any of us serve in order to get a little extra per diem just doesn’t hold water."
Senator must return mileage money
By JOHN MILLER, The Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Republican senator must return at least $2,402 to Idaho after he was inappropriately reimbursed for daily mileage between the Capitol and his Nampa home because he said he was spending nights during the legislative session sleeping on a couch in his Boise office.
Sen. Curt McKenzie says he'll repay the money for 2010 and 2011 sessions.
The Associated Press discovered the errors while reporting on a story about how McKenzie and Republican Sen. John McGee of Caldwell billed taxpayers $122 per day for a second residence during the Legislature. McKenzie told The AP he was sleeping on his law office couch, while McGee acknowledged he was staying at his parents' home in Boise.
That amounted to more than $6,400 in extra pay apiece during the 2011 session.
McKenzie said Monday he wasn't aware he was also getting the mileage reimbursement and never asked for the money.
"I did not realize that I was getting that in addition to the housing allowance. I didn't realize they'd been sending both. That was missed by staff, as well," McKenzie said. "I will reimburse that ($2,402) amount."
A Senate secretary, Mary Sue Jones, said the mileage payments resulted from a "clerical error" that automatically deposited the payments into McKenzie's account.
McGee did not receive extra mileage money, Jones said.
Idaho's part-time legislators who don't keep a second residence in Boise receive $49 per day payments, on top of a $16,116 salary. They can also get mileage reimbursements for travel between their homes and the Capitol.
Lawmakers like McKenzie, who lives 20 miles from Boise, and McGee, who lives 26 miles from the Capitol, get $122 per day by claiming a second residence, but they aren't eligible for the daily mileage reimbursements.
Don Burtenshaw, a member of the committee that helps set lawmakers' pay, joined some other lawmakers in saying that McKenzie and McGee likely violated the spirit of the per diem payments by taking the bigger amount.
The extra cash is designed to offset the expenses that out-of-town lawmakers' incur from renting a second home, apartment or hotel room in Boise during the session.
"I think if you're going to be claiming a second-residence (per diem), you should be paying for or renting a second residence," said Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, who pays $800 monthly for a town home in Boise during the session.
McGee didn't return phone calls Monday seeking comment.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.