NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Taxpayer money covers the expenses of running a government, including the travel and appearances of the elected leaders who run it.
A public request into the costs associated with New Hanover County's Board of Commissioners found that thousands of dollars separate one board member from the other four.
Jonathan Barfield charged $8,420.35 to the county from March 2012 – February 2013, according to the documents provided by the county. Most of the money paid for out-of-town conferences and workshops for the numerous boards and committees that Barfield is involved with at the state and national level.
"It's all about getting the knowledge base that's needed to represent our county," said Barfield.
Chairman Woody White, who has not turned in a reimbursement form in his first three months in office, said he prefers to learn through teleconferences, online seminars or meetings that are within reasonable driving distance.
Barfield is not breaking any rules with his spending, and White added that every commissioner is allowed to have a different philosophy when it comes to the policy.
There are no current plans to update the policy, but White said that does not mean it won't be brought up in the future.
When it comes to local appearances, Barfield spent more than $650 of his expense money to attend lunches, fundraisers and other events. Barfield said he's doing nothing different than what he's done since he was first elected in 2008.
"People are expecting their elected officials to be at certain events," he said.
In the span of a year, Rep. Ted Davis charged the county $160 for three events while he was a commissioner. Three events attended by commissioner Brian Berger cost the county $108, but the most recent one was May 2, 2012.
The county reimbursed Rep. Rick Catlin $35 for a meeting, and former commissioner Jason Thompson $38 for his time at a power breakfast. That amount is close to the $31.74 lunch for recently appointed commissioner Thomas Wolfe.
Vice-Chair Beth Dawson, like the chairman, has not expensed anything to the county in her first few months in public office.
County or campaign
Given Barfield's recent announcement to run for U.S. Congress, WECT.com questioned his intentions during all of his engagements.
The commissioner said he knows what is right and wrong, and he can make the distinction between representing the county and promoting his campaign.
"I never showboat in terms of me running for whatever office," he said. "I'm there to represent the citizens."
Barfield said any campaign events will be paid for by his campaign finances. The following are a list of the local events that Barfield attended on taxpayer money.
322 Shipyard Boulevard