City Controller Ronald Green is under the microscope for tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs for city-related business trips and conferences.
Now, Green is addressing his critics in an exclusive interview with FOX 26.
"Sometimes, it takes elected officials and advocating for this city. That's why we're elected," he said.
His office released travel expense records showing $35,000 in hotel stays and airfare for the three years he has been in office.
As the City of Houston's chief financial officer, he said it is in the best interests of the taxpayers that he travel and represent his interests. That includes re-financing city bonds in a tough economy and representing the municipality in various conferences and meetings.
"I'm not a city council member. I don't vote on the budget. There is absolutely one person in this city who can independently talk about the city budget and only one elected official and CFO and that's me," he said.
Records show there were airline tickets as high as $1,000 and a one-night stay at hotel costing $462. He said his travel costs must be put in context. He refutes claims of first class tickets. The one ticket Green provided to FOX 26 News was first class but only after an upgrade by the airline. Then there's that expensive hotel stay in the Big Apple.
"In New York City, we would love to be able to stay with the government rate or the GSA rate every time, but sometimes it is not offered," he said.
As a result of the criticism related to his travel, he is bringing in an independent auditing firm to look over his travel-related expenses.
In the meantime, the MBA and law degree-carrying controller said he travels on the city's finance trips because he understands it can better advocate for the taxpayer.
"People elected me because of my background because I do have financial experience and I don't have to delegate too much of what could've been delegated," he said.
The elected official comes only a few years after a travel scandal at Harris County. Employees there were accused of taking expensive trips for county bonds, arriving early and attending sporting events.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said traveling for bonds is not necessary. Emmett said in this day and age of teleconferencing, there's no need to travel. Green totally disagrees.