The salary wasn’t too good, but the benefits were great.
Mayor Paul Korman of Spirit Lake, Idaho, in the year before his unexpected resignation in May, was paid only the mayoral stipend: a token $20 per month.
But city records show he racked up more than $5,500 in meals and travel. Some residents say that’s far too much money in a town of only 790 people.
He ate in Spirit Lake and Spokane, Blanchard and Boise. On one February day, Korman’s credit card charges show him eating once in Coeur d’Alene, twice in McCall and once in New Meadows. Total: $95.
Officials confirmed last week that Korman is the target of a state investigation into alleged misuse of city funds. Some Spirit Lake residents also have questioned the fact that Korman’s wife, Susan, lobbied the council on behalf of at least one developer.
With his city credit card, Korman dined at Spirit Lake’s Hog ‘n’ Jog restaurant and Linger Longer Lounge. He ate at a Portland coffee shop, Spokane’s Little German Inn and Coeur d’Alene’s T.W. Fisher’s brew pub. He ate fish in Boise, Mexican food in Coeur d’Alene and pie in Spokane.
Korman also charged more than $1,200 in office supplies, building materials, software, printing and propane. Korman brought back receipts for only a small fraction of the charges.
Those receipts that are in the file show that Spirit Lake taxpayers also paid $70 for a clock, and $8 for a parking ticket the mayor got in Boise.
His travel expenses include airline tickets, hotels, car rental and $839 in local mileage, including 27 round trips to Spokane. The city cut him checks for $900 in what the mayor called “walking around money” while traveling.
City Councilman Rod Erickson said the council is waiting to hear from the Idaho Bureau of Investigation before deciding what to do. The council may ask Korman to repay some of the money, but Erickson said he’s not convinced the expenses are out of line.
“It’s not really looking all that excessive to me,” he said. “He spent a lot of time chasing grants, and I know they’re spendy to chase.”
Korman, he pointed out, got the city more than $1 million in grants for paving city streets, laying water lines and setting up stormwater collection.
“It’s hard for me to judge what’s reasonable,” Erickson said. “Chasing grants, those people might hobnob in expensive places.”
As far as meals and travel expenses, there apparently is no state law regulating what official expenses a city can pay for.
“I don’t know that there’s anything in Idaho code to address that,” said Ray Ineck, a managing auditor at the state Legislative Auditor’s Office. “It’s probably up to the City Council.”
In Spirit Lake’s case, the receipts may have not even made it that far. The records show that many of Korman’s checks were authorized by “K.P.K.” - or K. Paul Korman.
The records also show that Korman repaid some of the charges he made on the city’s credit card. In February, he repaid $79. In July 1994, he repaid $192.
Korman’s phone number is unlisted. He did not return messages left Monday afternoon on his wife’s business phone.