City administrator, five council members rack up $684 food tab at swank Des Moines restaurant

After hearing presentations on "The Leadership Role for City Officials" at the annual Iowa League of Cities conference in September, Bettendorf's city administrator and five aldermen adjourned for dinner at the 801 ChopHouse Restaurant, a downtown Des Moines steakhouse "modeled after the classic New York steakhouses of the 1920's," according to its website. Very expensive also would describe the restaurant.

First there were appetizers of Maryland jumbo crab cakes with caper tartar sauce ($18), grilled oysters with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese ($17), fried calamari with fried zucchini and roasted garlic rémoulade ($15), and 'Down Home' sautéed jumbo shrimp with garlic and herb butter ($19).

City officials then selected from the restaurant's signature salads.

The "801 Chophouse," ($13), according to the menu, is "mixed baby greens, roasted corn, shaved red onion, braised pork belly, Maytag blue cheese crumbles, tomato, garlic and herb vinaigrette topped with a poached egg." The "801 Wedge" ($12) consisted of cherry tomatoes, blue cheese dressing, crumbled Maytag blue cheese and bacon. The other selection, Mixed Green Salad ($13), included goat cheese, roasted almonds, red wine poached cranberries, with white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Since the chophouse menu is á la carte, city officials chose from a range of vegetables and potato offerings.

The sides ordered by the group included garlic pan roasted mashed potatoes with wild mushrooms, garlic, and Boursin cheese ($10), carmelized baby carrots with brandy and brown sugar glaze ($11), fresh asparagus steamed with Hollandaise sauce, grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper ($12), pan roasted wild mushrooms with garlic and Boursin cheese ($12), and French green beans sautéed with Duroc bacon and carmelized onions ($11).

For the main course, the orders included roast prime rib ($43), 8 oz. Filet Mignon ($45), 12 oz. New York Strip ($45), 16 oz. New York Strip ($58), 12 oz. Lollipop Veal Chop ($45) and Alaskan salmon ($35).

With appetites apparently not sated, the group then ordered two Grand Marnier Soufflés for dessert ($12 each).

Including a $130 tip, the repast for City Administrator Decker Ploehn, and Aldermen Scott Naumann, Scott Webster, Jerry Sechser, Gary Mohr and Frank Baden came to $683.59, or an average of $113.93 per person.

The average dinner cost was more than double the city's daily per diem (for three meals) of $55.

Asked why taxpayers picked up the full tab for the sumptuous dinner, City Administrator Ploehn had this email response: ". . . the (meal reimbursement) policy has two separate component parts: 1) If the traveler chooses not to have to provide receipts they have a maximum allowance of $55 per day. The second part of the policy allows actual expenses to be reimbursed, if the department head deems the expense reasonable. I am the department head that approved it. I deemed it reasonable. The City Council has approved the payment to American Express."


Bill from the 801 ChopHouse dinner includes alcohol and two dinners (for private individuals) that are not included in the $683.59 paid by the city.

801 ChopHouse Restaurant Des Moines web site

City policy on reimbursement of meal expenses while on tavel on city business.

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