Barshinger spent $17,157 on four trips
Published: November 2, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Sen. Craig Barshinger took four trips between 2009 and 2011 totalling $17,157.42.
The majority of his travel expenses - $11,200 - was for a three-week course at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"I have traveled very little because they won't let me travel," Barshinger said.
He said he has difficulty getting cash advances for travel, and when he does travel, he rarely is reimbursed for his expenses.
Barshinger has a pending lawsuit in V.I. Superior Court about reimbursements from the Senate. He says he is owed about $46,000 from the 26th Legislature.
Barshinger said he was surprised that more of his past trips were not included in the files provided to The Daily News. Despite requesting travel records for senators going back to 2005, the oldest records made available date back to 2007. Barshinger's file goes back only to 2009.
"I think that you can see that the Legislature is missing information," he said.
California and Colorado, 2009
In 2009, Barshinger traveled to San Diego for a National Conference of State Legislators meeting. From there, he went to Colorado to meet with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The combined trip cost $2,700.
"I went to get a feel for what other state Legislatures were doing, and I focused mostly on energy issues," Barshinger said.
He went to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory - which has partnered with the territory to create a comprehensive plan to move the territory off oil dependence - to get an update on their progress.
"I wanted to say to them, 'What are you doing with our energy plan?' " he said.
In November 2010, Barshinger took his entire staff on a cruise to participate in a training session for his office's computer software.
The seven-day Caribbean cruise for eight people cost $5,310.64.
Barshinger said the trip was approved by Senate President Louis Hill before they went, but he never was reimbursed.
"They paid zero," he said. "It came out of my pocket again."
He said the cruise was booked only after his staff had gotten quotes from local hotels. Barshinger said it would have cost much more to fly his St. Croix staff over to St. Thomas, put them up in a hotel and pay for their food for a week than it did for everyone to go on a cruise.
"I'm frugal, but that doesn't mean I don't try to get the best stuff for the money, and we got good stuff," he said.
"The First Class Software system is an integrated calendar, email, task manager and documents storage system," Barshinger said.
He said because he is the only at-large senator who has offices and staff on all three islands, he needs the system to efficiently manage his office.
The cruise was taken during the week that the Legislature building on St. Thomas was closed for asbestos removal.
"They cruised on Craig's money, as it stands now," he said.
Washington, D.C., 2011
Barshinger traveled to Washington, D.C., from May 7-14, 2011, at a cost of $1,693.64.
He met with Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen and House of Representative employees to learn more about proper legislative procedures and transparency.
"They don't have the kind of trouble we have in the Congress because they have clear, unambiguous rules that keep them out of trouble," Barshinger said.
He also went to put pressure on the Department of the Interior Inspector General's Office. At the time, the audit of the Legislature had not yet been released, and he wanted answers about when it would be published.
"I was there, and I put a great deal of pressure on them," Barshinger said.
Barshinger said he was selected to participate in a three-week executive education program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
He traveled from July 11-29, 2011, at a cost of $11,200 - which included tuition and room and board for the program.
He said he made good contacts, one of which he sought out when the St. Croix sports complex proposal was before the Senate.
From Oct. 17-21, 2011, Barshinger traveled to Dallas to attend the Solar Power International 2011 Conference.
According to the file, he received two checks totalling $2,039.27 from the Legislature for the trip.
He took the trip to learn about the best energy alternatives for the territory, he said.
As part of the registration for the conference, written and audio recordings of the entire conference was provided. Barshinger shared the information with the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. Energy Office and other government officials.
"I brought back a lot of good useful information," he said.
Barshinger later co-sponsored a local Distributive Energy Grid Conference held at the University of the Virgin Islands and brought in several experts he met at the conference.
He also has introduced legislation for implementing a distributed energy grid in the territory.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.