9 Wilmington City leaders spend nearly $20,000 in DC

Reported by Laura Sinacori - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Last month, nine Wilmington city leaders attended a national conference, spending almost $20,000 of taxpayers' money along the way.

Wilmington City Council members spent their last meeting discussing the budget and how they are going to have to make cutbacks.  Now, people are raising their eyebrows at the money spent at a conference in Washington DC.

"I think it's a little outrageous that they're saying one thing and doing another," said Chris Vargovic.

While in DC, each Wilmington city leader spent more than $1,300 on registration, hotels, and travel - money council members say was necessary.

"The hotels and things are not the mission," said Ron Sparks.  "The mission is to get our influence out there to the leaders making decisions and we have to be in Washington with the folks that make those decisions. We can't do it from Wilmington so that's why we need to go on these trips."

Some say they should have taken their food choices into more careful consideration.

Council members say they attended training seminars, made connections with members of congress, and worked to convince leaders to commit to future Wilmington-area projects, like beach renourishment.

"If we get some millions of dollars from that I think it will be an important investment for our city," said Earl Sheridan.  "I think it will be worth it."

Former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson said he understands the need to attend conferences like this one, but he questioned the need for all nine people to make the trip.  He says it sends the wrong message.

"I think they need to reassure and demonstrate to the citizens of our community that they are tuned in to everybody's concerns in this economic time and we're all suffering," said Peterson.

City council members say that's just a drop in the bucket, because they've already recouped the money from the trip from stimulus money they received for the Wilmington Housing Authority last week.

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.