WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Just weeks after coming under fire for spending $19,000 on a trip to the nation's capitol, the mayor and council left Wednesday for the state capitol.
All seven council members, along with city manager Sterling Cheatham, went to Raleigh to attend the NC League of Municipalities Town Hall Day.
"We took two city vehicles and piled in there," said Mayor Bill Saffo. "We think it's important to go around and meet all the state delegates and talk with them about issues in our community."
Records show council spent $22,000 on travel in the last fiscal year. So far, they've already spend $31,000 this year.
WECT has learned that council woman Laura Padgett has spent the most, totaling more than $11,000.
Before she left for Raleigh, Padgett told WECT she is on two national committees on transportation, which is a big issue locally.
"This last year and a half has been a bit different from my rest of the time on council, because I did take advantage to get involved on a national level with transportation," said Padgett. "It was an issue in 1993 when I ran and still is."
Council members say they're trying to be proactive about their travel expenses. For next year they're thinking about cutting their travel budget by 15%.
"There's going to be a debate about that because we have so many people on national committees and they travel," said Mayor Bill Saffo.
The more they travel on taxpayer dollars, the more citizens in Wilmington will debate how well the money is spent.
City council members defend their increased travel time saying they haven't laid off any employees or mandated furloughs.