11th hour costly Dubai junket being planned within Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office

Outgoing city councilmember looking to travel with city deputy director

HOUSTON – A new week is already producing a new chapter of proposed questionable spending being passed onto Houstonians in the final weeks of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Administration. 

The travel being discussed is forcing KPRC 2 Investigates to ask questions of Priya Zachariah, a chief resilience and sustainability officer in Mayor Turner’s Administration.

But she is not the only one.

We also have questions for Council Member David Robinson.

Priya Zachariah, a Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer in Mayor Turner’s administration. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The planned trip is for an 8-day journey to Dubai for the United Nations Climate Conference – COP 28.

Mayor Turner, after all, is the chair emeritus of the Climate Mayors, which makes sense as to why Zachariah might attend, but what has KPRC 2 Investigates asking questions is the business class travel being proposed.

Director Zachariah is looking to fly business class at over $7,500, with total trip costs being over $11,000.

However, a 30-second search on the travel site KAYAK by KPRC 2 Investigates Monday morning offered a trip involving the same airline, hotel and dates for only $4,054 and that cost covers full travel and lodging for two.

Travel site KAYAK. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

It’s important to note what Mayor Turner has been touting of late.

“The next mayor, whoever the next mayor is will inherit a fund balance of about $420 million dollars, so yeah, we’re good management,” said Turner at a recent news conference.

But is business class good management?

KPRC 2 Investigates asked the mayor’s office and was told, “The City of Houston has not confirmed an itinerary or travel,” said the Mayor’s spokesperson, Mary Benton. “As such, I cannot answer your additional questions.”

However, we continued to push for specific answers from Zachariah, asking multiple questions, including:

  • Did you propose business or first class travel to Dubai for a conference  - yes or no?
  • Was the City of Houston invited to attend this conference – yes or no?

Zachariah never answered “yes or no” to our simple questions.

As for Council Member Robinson? He texted KPRC 2 Investigates stating, “We haven’t bought a ticket yet, but normally we fly economy.”

When we texted Robinson back asking, “Who purchases your ticket normally? And will you fly economy to Dubai?”

Robinson never responded.

Text message between KPRC 2 Investigative Report Mario Diaz and Council Member Robinson. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

About the Author:

Journalistic bulldog focused on accountability and how government is spending your dollars. Husband to Wonder Woman, father to a pitcher and two Cavapoos. Prefers queso over salsa.