Should taxpayers pay to send the spouses of commissioners and the city manager to Switzerland each summer as part of Art Basel?

Miami Beach officials’ Art Basel trips called a ‘junket’

With the June 15 opening of Art Basel just days away, a delegation of Miami Beach officials is preparing for a trip to the Swiss city and sister festival to the Beach’s art extravaganza. Also packing their bags: the city manager’s wife and a commissioner’s husband.

Miami Beach taxpayers are picking up the tab — at least $86,500 since 2005, including roughly $17,300 to pay for the plane tickets of spouses, girlfriends and guests.

The city says the annual trips solidify relationships with their Swiss counterparts and are a key reason behind a decade of Art Basel Miami Beach, arguably the city’s premier event. To ethics investigators, however, using city funds to pay for friends and family — and failing to disclose their travel as a gift — skirts the line.

“To the citizen out there, your wife getting to go to Basel, Switzerland, for a week is a junket,” Michael Murawski, a Miami-Dade ethics commission advocate, told City Manager Jorge Gonzalez last month.

. . .

Gonzalez said Art Basel is one of the city’s most positive and economically beneficial events and he doesn’t want to risk slighting Basel officials by leaving spouses at home.

“There have been rumors at different times that Basel might leave. Do you want to risk that? I don’t,” he said. “Not on my watch. And so we make sure we take the appropriate steps, protocol or otherwise, to ensure that Art Basel is here as long as they want to and we can keep them.”

But Jerry Haar, associate dean of Florida International University’s College of Business Administration and a professor of management and international business, said he’s not convinced the spouses make any difference.

“I seriously doubt whether any municipality will have their proposal jeopardized if they do not bring their spouse,” he said.

Read: “Miami Beach officials’ Art Basel trips called a ‘junket’,“ an article by MiamiHerald.com.

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