For the mayor of Alpha, a typical phone bill is around $100. But last fall, international charges sent the monthly tab for his borough-issued cellphone skyrocketing to more than 10 times the usual charge.
Data and calls during a month of international travel from early August to early September cost $1,275, bringing Mayor Craig Dunwell’s total bill for the month to $1,446.45, according to statements obtained this week by lehighvalleylive.com through a public records request.
Dunwell said he was making an annual monthlong trip to Ukraine, where he met his wife years ago while he served in the Peace Corps. He said data usage was driven upward in part through emails, texts and calls regarding borough business, and also as apps automatically updated in the absence of Wi-Fi. Dunwell said he didn’t turn the auto-update function off because he wanted to keep his phone secure while abroad.
Dunwell, a Republican, took office in 2016 and was provided a phone from the borough starting in early 2017.
According to the provided bills, he only accrued international charges on the account once before: Data usage cost $275 when he was out of the country from mid-August to mid-September 2017, bringing that total monthly bill to $407.
Some residents have publicly questioned the mayor about the bill, according to minutes from the last few months of meetings, but payment of was ultimately approved by council.
On Friday, Dunwell said that for his next trip he may purchase a phone from a Ukrainian provider and use that for email and texting, rather than the borough phone.