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ONLY ON 3: Padgett wishes other council members spent more of travel budget

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington City Councilwoman Laura Padgett's spending habits are making headlines again.

Padgett overspent on her travel budget for the fiscal year that just ended. She's the only council member to do so, and it's not the first time.

"The basic amount is not enough," Padgett said.

The basic amount for each city council member is $2,750, which was raised in 2011 after Padgett went over budget.

"You're not going to get to a trip anywhere out of the state for less than $1,200-1,500 hundred," Padgett said.

Some council members view the issue differently.

"I feel like each council member should prioritize their budget and live within that budget just like all our other departments do," Councilman Neil Anderson said.

Padgett says the price of travel plays a major role in using up the money, but why have no other council members exceeded their allotment?

"I can't answer that for everybody," she said. "I think some feel they really should not spend the city's money."

But Padgett says all the council members should be spending more money.

"I would love for it to turn out that everybody had used up their money learning and representing the city," Padgett said.

She says the conferences provide a wealth of knowledge, but Anderson has not seen evidence of that

"I guess I just can't comment on how good these conferences or these different things that she goes to, 'cause I don't really have a feel for what was covered or what she garnered out of them," Anderson said.

Anderson does not believe Padgett is wasting the money, but wishes she and all other council members would make a presentation of what they learned at conferences.

Council has asked the city manager to reevaluate their travel policies. They hope to look at possible changes next month.

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Mr Anderson

makes a couple of good points.

He can'nt comment on the worth of her travel as she does not report or submit a summary on topics covered; apparently she does not share any insightful information which the other members could consider when reviewing docketed items.

Why travel if you do not report on what was covered?

Since she can not stay within her budget, perhaps she should submit a travel request for Council approval once she has expended 75% of her budgeted amount.

What happens if the other Council members increase their travel leaving no slush fund for her to dip into? Will she forgo reimbursement or will Cheatem be expected to create funding?

Her travel included Denver, Seattle, DC, and Panama, among others. Those aren't spur of the moment trips such as last year's trip to Durham to inspect the ballpark. These generally are convention or meeting sites which plan the event months in advance.

Mr. Anderson notes she should be able to better prioritize her travel. That's not an unreasonable request or expectation.

She says the basic allowance is not enough. Oddly, she's the only member who consistently exceeds her budget.

If these trips are of such importance, shouldn't the travel be spread among all of the Council members? If a trip to Denver or Seattle is so significant, shouldn't the city be represented by the Mayor?

It may not seem significant. But when you consistently go 20% over budget, you don't set a good example for city employees. And, failing to share the data learned at these meetings with other Council members is a real breach of protocal.

Congressman and Senators secure committee approval before making trips. On return, they submit a report on what was learned or studied. They submit an expense account for approval.

Of the 3, Ms. Padgett only seems to grasp the third.

This was addressed in 2011. When the City amended the travel budget process, it was agreed travel, which would take a Council Member over budget, should be submitted to the Council for approval prior to the travel. Even the Mayor noted Council Members should stay within budget. Doesn't that apply to Ms. Padgett or did she get excused from following the rules?

Fixing the Padgett problem isn't exactly rocket science.

Not one of these Council Members is so destitute that they couldn't pay out of pocket in advance for their trips and then be reimbursed on a timely basis once they got back. Once the allocated budget amount is reached, the reimbursement stops.

If Ms. Padgett knew that she didn't have unlimited taxpayer dollars to waste on personal travel, I'm sure she would soon begin to re-prioritize the value of her little junkets.

One would think that if $affo and cronies are smart enough to orchestrate all of their "special" land deals this would be a no brainer for them. Looks like their priorities are elsewhere.

For a study

She went out of town for a study of scary police cars. Hope she wore her depends.

Padgett's woes

I think Ms. Padgett lives downtown. She has a very nice home. I am sure she realizes how much money she spends before she goes over budget. I guess it is okay for her to spend too much as we need her wisdom. Full of herself? Yea.

Laura Padgett...

has never met a taxpayer dollar she didn't like...or couldn't spend. What we'd all like to know is what worthwhile knowledge she gained from spending our money.

If other council members didn't spend theirs, use their leftover dollars to make up the overage she spent. Travel budget balances and we aren't spending more that we allotted her.

Ignorance is Bliss

I am wondering why the City Circus (Council) would continue to send the most uneducated and...well, just plain dumb, member they have to represent our city. Maybe, the other Circus members could (try) and inform the Village Idiot that we are in a recession, and possibly SAVING...TAXPAYER'S MONEY...would be a good idea, instead of encouraging others to overspend with her incompetence.