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City officials believe spending taxpayers' money on conference worth the expense

READ MORE: City officials believe spending taxpayers' money on conference worth the expense
Despite facing a projected $6.6 million budget deficit Wilmington city officials believe the trip to the National League of Cities annual conference was worth it. All seven Wilmington City Council members, the city manager, and the city clerk attended the conference. Officials say the trip may have already paid for itself. The nightly cost for each room at a DC hotel was about $300. Dinners at Ruth’s Chris and Georgia Brown’s for nine Wilmington officials, some spouses and guests totaled $1,000. That being said, attending the National League of Cities annual conference was priceless, according to those who attended. “This is a very important congress and a very important stimulus package and once it's gone it's gone and you're not going to be able to go back and get any more,” stated Mayor Bill Saffo. For taxpayers, the total cost of the trip was $19,000. City residents wonder if they couldn't have trimmed the cost. “They might have taken half the city council, instead of the entire city council, and have achieved just the same thing for half the money,” said Wilmingtonian Carol Hernandez. Council members say given the economic climate it was important to have many voices supporting Wilmington. “There is money coming through the economic recovery package, and we want certainly our share and frankly if you're not there to ask you may not get what you're looking for,” explained Laura Padgett, Wilmington City Council member. Padgett said the trip helped get $1.5 million in stimulus money for the Nesbitt Court demolition. Residents say they appreciate the support for the port city... To a point. “If you're going to try to get money to try and help us, a $300-a-night room doesn't look good,” said Wilmington resident Bill Wilson. Council member Ron Sparks says staying in the hotel where the conference took place was expensive, but helpful. “We felt it was so important for us to be in Washington, we said yes it's going to cost us $20,000 or so, but we need to be there.” The council hopes spending money now will help save and create jobs later. Sparks pointed out the city canceled a November trip to a National League of Cities event in Orlando because of the economy. As for the spouses, they did not pay to attend the conference and there was no extra hotel charge. Padgett would not comment on her feelings about bringing spouses on the trip, but said at least one council member’s spouse paid for her own meal.

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City Council Travesty

You would imagine that the City Council members whom attended the conference would say their attendance was justified. I disagree and when I vote I will remember Council Members whom are already well off and sucking the blood out of the budget. Mayor Saffo tell the citizens of Wilmington one dollar this trip is producing for Wilmington. The money you are seeking is again tax payer's money. The trip was at taxpayers expense. The waste of time and money is at the tax payer's expense. Your service is at the tax payer's expense and I believe you will see our disdain for your service at the polls. The citizens are not stupid. We know you wanted a free trip to Washington, all expenses paid and so you took it. Now you want to justify the expense as worthwhile. I would bet you cannot provide one ounce of evidence or proof the trip was nothing but a vacation at taxpayer's expense. The money you just wasted could almost pay a salary for one year of some of the personnel you just laid off. I am sick and tired of politicians dipping into the public's money with no fear of reprisal. I bet the City Manager has sent out inter-office memo's about purchase of supplies, trips for city business to the rank and file employees. It applies to them but evidently not to city politicians. By the way did the county politicians go? Does not the county need more money also? You politicians want to make decisions for me. I have one for you, resign. We need politicians whom are fierce in budget restraint, not budget spenders for their recreation.

To Guest1969

Have you ever been to DC and stayed in a hotel? I was there on business in 1989 and my modest hotel room was $289 per night. It is one of the most expensive places to stay in this country. I do not have a problem with our city leaders going to Washington and staying in a hotel...but I do have a problem with their choices in where to have dinner.

I'll be the council memebers

I'll be the council memebers did think this trip was necessary. They must justify their spending. Newsflash: it doesn't really matter what you the councilmembers think, only what the taxpayers think of you. Ever heard of teleconferencing? It a new twenty first century concept that saves the taxpayers alot of money.

It's not their money

Do you think they'd be paying $1000 dinner tabs on THEIR dime? You'll know that the revolution has REALLY started when news like this is greated with tar and feathers at the next city council meeting.

City Council Travel

Anyone who has worked in a professional capacity realizes some travel is a necessity and while many organizations expect some of their staff to travel most impose some cost restrictions on that travel so the employee can get maximum benefit without costing the firm too much. Restrictions are placed in terms of per diem rates for meals and hotels. Staff generally have to pay for spouses on business trips and first cflass travel is definitely excluded. And alchol is usually excluded. One can dine where one wants but generally has to pay to per diem overage. Consequently, I would suggest the City of Wilmington explore some of these restrictions on their next conference attendees.

City officials believe

The whole thing is ridiculous! Who do they think they are? The old saying "You're not any better than anyone else", definitely shows definitely shows that it hasn't been listened to by these people. I know there are less expensive hotels, restauraunts, and meeting areas. Like one of the other guest said, Why couldn't they go to a place that provided all of those things, because it wouldn't only save money but time. I don;t think they should go to a "cheap" place, but what they did do was way too pricey, especially when things are so bad. It makes them look very childish, like their only thinking about how they want things. Things like this are what's bringing this country down. Greediness, greediness, greediness. Something like that makes the everyday person see that, they just think their too good. And that gives them a less chance of ever getting those seats again. I'm 50 years old, and I have never, not even when I got married(and went on my honeymoon),did I spend this much on a meal or hotel room.I'd be plain ashamed of myself if I were them. That shows just like another person had said they are sorry IDOTS. And considering the amount of money they make, I would think they could handle the expenses of their "vacations". It seems to me that if they were real men and women, they'd want to. All they are are sneaky thiefs.

Webcast instead of travel

Most companies have cut travel to the bone. They have instead starting having training and critical meetings using the web. I'll bet this trip could have been avoided. If WWAY really wants a story, they should check to see if it was available as a webcast.

Thank God I don't live in the City

I am so thankful for not living in the City of Wilmington, the council is wrong for sending the entire council down to Washington but when you have a mayor with no common sense what do you expect the council follows the so called leader. At the most they should have sent would maybe be two or three members tops not the entire board and city staff. I hope this is not the end of this because its dead wrong especially in the state the City is in right now with the possibility of layoffs and reduction in public safety. Public Safety is way more important than going to play so called big shot Politian in Washington DC.


This has me apalled. I have been on quite a few business trips and even taken my significant other along on a few. She had to pay her own transportation and her own food. Granted the lodging was free for her as the hotel didnt care if there were one or two people in the room. How is it that these leaders of the community can be so blind. If they hadn't sent 9 people, some spouses, and paid for guests at dinner, then I would imagine that the bill for this little trip would be a significant amount less. Are these people not held to a per diem on hotels and food expenditures. I mean, when I travel on business, I know I am AND I am held accountable for it. If I were to go over the budgeted amount, then it comes out of my pocket. Our finance department would rake us over the coals for things like this. It would be interesting to see how they really justify everything spent. Just my two cents here, but I believe these crooks should have to pay back any overage they have incurred over the per diem

The city council spends

The city council spends almost 20 grand in D.C. yet their talking about laying off enough people from the fire department to close down a station. Are these really the kind of people we need making decisions in our city? Personally, I'd rather have fire protection throughout the city than have these clowns wining and dining their way through tax-payers money.

What do you mean the

What do you mean the convention center doesn't cost the city anything??? Who do you think is paying to have it built-Donald Trump? What plantet are you living on?

I personally think the costs are reasonable

As someone who travels quite frequently for business, I don't think the costs are out of line. Dinner in any major city at a decent restaurant is $40-50/person by the time you factor in a tip. I think it is ridiculous to expect a business traveller (elected officials included) to eat in a dive restaurant or McDonald's while travelling.


Ok so I am generally very supportive of our city council and it's efforts to grow our town and bring in new business and so forth. Particularly Mayor Saffo who I personally know. But I have to say, that dinner at Ruth's Chris on the city dime is a bit much...and definitely if spouses were treated as well. Seems wrong and I personally wouldn't have made this decision. I do think that going to conferences and continuing ed for those in charge is important, and being someone who has attended MANY conference, you should all know it's generally cheaper in the long run to stay in the hotel where the conference is at. Staying elsewhere means renting a car or getting taxis, etc.. and it saves on time.


Remember Obama administration thru the roof spending--you know stimulus and bail-outs--caused this tax dollar feeding frenzy. The T.E.A. Parties are about this type of spending. Now you see it on a local level. Beginning to understand the T.E.A. Parties?

City Council Trip

Has anyone thought that the city manager and others went on this trip to try and find a new job? The people of Wilmington are really feed up with the way this council is doing and are ready to make some changes. If this stimulis money paid for the trip, what was that money going to be used for ??I am sure it was not for trips.Think about it.

Waste of Money

If you look at the Govt Domestic Per Diem Rates site ( )you will see the waste of money. This site gives $233 for motel a day and meals total of $64 for the day. I think the Council members need to pay some of the expenses out of their own pockets. I bet if a normal city worker submitted this expense report it would be kicked backed. Also, when do we start paying spouses expenses (again could a normal city worker be allowed to do this)? I think the finance office need to look hard at this before it is allowed. I guess they set the rules for all the other workers and not follow them..

[Check this out to help out

[Check this out to help out the city...and compare stories!] "New Hanover County employees are back to work today after a mandatory furlough day Monday. After layoffs and a hiring freeze, county employees are still required to take ten furlough days to help with the county's budget crunch. The effort is the county's way of balancing the budget without increasing property taxes"

Amazed they haven't been

Amazed they haven't been ridden out of town on a rail by now anyway! $300 per night for these bunch of clowns? Now they'll come back and tell us how bad of shape our city is in, and they'll need to raise taxes. 20 grand might have help keep someone employed that is now out of a job. What a JOKE!

Reality Check

I am an employee of New Hanover County and work closely with my equals in city government. As employees, when we travel on business 1) if we take our spouse we are required to pay out of pocket for all spouse related expenses, difference in room rate, all spouse meals and spouse travel; 2) Our choice of lodging is usually scrutenized at several levels and 3) we only get whatever county (or city) policy allows a specific per deim usually much less than the federal government per deim listed by the GSA. in the case of the county I have to live on $33.00 a day for meals or pay the overage myself. It does not vary based on the cost of living where you go, $33 a day in po-dunk Arkansas or Washington DC or New York City. So, if County management and for my fellow employees in the City - city management are so harsh on employees - how is it elected officials have a blank check?

I agree. My husband works

I agree. My husband works for the state and he also has a per diem. They are trying to justify the costs by saying that things are just more expensive in D.C. Well, they didn't have to go to dinner at Ruth's Chris, or at Georgia Brown's. They could've gone to McDonalds. These 2 meals alone cost taxpayers over $1,000.00! And, if you look at the itemized receipts you'll notice that they really took advantage of not having to pay out of pocket. They ordered appetizers, soups, salads & deserts along with their entrees. Do you think they would've ordered so much if they had been paying? I think not.

You have GOT to be kidding

Can what I've just read in this article be true? It's almost unfathomable. Our city, our county, our state, our nation...ALL are in the midst of very rough economy. Perhaps going to the conference was a good thing, but that does NOT justify staying in a hotel that cost $300 a night, and that CERTAINLY does not justify all having meals at places like Ruth's Chris! It smacks of the ultimate hypocrisy, and it is most foul. If they absolutely HAD to go, they could have found cheaper accommodations. Yes, I also read in the story that where they stayed was where the conference was being held, but at $300 a night, it's just ridiculous. After all, the conference was about stimulating local economys. Staying in a cheaper hotel simply is NOT that big of a deal. They were there to help bring our city more money, but there is NO WAY to justify the spending that occurred on this trip. Ruth's Chris for dinner is irresponsible, to say the least. Oh, and taking and paying for spouses??!? Exactly how did THAT benefit the citizens of Wilmington? In this past week, we learned that the city is planning to take drastic measures that include reducing the number of police officers. Soooo...we're going to cut PUBLIC SAFETY spending but we will allow the kind of irresponsible spending seen throughout this trip. Gee, thanks Mayor, and thanks, Council Members. Thank you for deciding that overpriced hotels and dinners at Ruth's Chris are more important that public safety. Every single person involved with planning and taking this trip should be ashamed of themselves, and I sincerely hope that NONE of them ever win a reelection. Mayor, council members, admin staff who helped plan this, spouses...each and every one of you owes us all a public apology AND reimbursement from your own bank accounts. Anyone who fails to do both has no integrity whatsoever.

Obama administration pork

Obama administration pork barrel spending at its best. Here we see local government over spending of tax funds to capture national over spending of tax funds, or as it's now called stimulus money. Don't worry about the debt, and just remember: The government gets the dollars and we get the "change".

My Lord! Is everything

My Lord! Is everything Obama's fault??? Let's be fair and use some intelligence for a change instead of the venemous hatred, both politically and racially, that some of you wackos display. 5 area residents were just charged with income tax fraud.....guess that's his fault too, right?! When people really want to be taken seriously and admit to what is true and factual, then maybe someone will listen.

Yes, it is

Yes, a lot is Obama's fault. You heart-bleeders insisted that everything was Bush's fault while he was in office. You use words like "venemous hatred" and "wackos" but we're supposed to take YOU seriously? No, Obama is not the reason the five you mentioned were charged. However, I think Obama's bailout money is far greater than what five were charged for. When you get your head out of your hind parts and stop spewing your idiotic theories so that you can be taken seriously, then maybe someone will listen.

re: my Lord! Is everything Obamas fault

Just like everything was George Bushes' fault when he was president. It's always different when it's YOUR guy getting the blame for everything. President Bush was drug thru the mud and blamed by democrats for everything whether it was true or not. NOBODY spewed more HATRED for a president than the Democrats did against President Bush or the Republican Party because they have a different point of view. Where was your call for being fair and using intelligence then?? Where was your concern about facts then?? Democrats are only concerned about facts according to their point of view. If you don't agree with them, you are a hate monger.

re: re: my Lord! Is everything Obamas fault

I'm sure you were defending the people that were called "traitors" and "un-American", when we protested Iraq? (which was Bush's fault) President Bush had the support of 90% of the country, and who knows how much of the world, going into Afghanistan. He proceeded to squander that in Iraq. Are you supporting our President in time of war?

re: my Lord!

I do support the president in this time of war. I have a son who is serving in the military. I also believe in your right to protest. Freedom of speech is a right we all have and many have fought and died for in this country. I find it interesting that people who protested the war and exercised their freedom of speech are rediculing Americans who are attending tea parties and labeling them as a bunch of crazy people who are stupid and uninformed. The truth is, these are democrats, republicans, and liberterians who are fed up with more of the same lies, over spending and taxing. Our government is corrupt from the local level to Washington, and it knows no party lines. This is what the average American understands. It's time people get over their "political parties" and demand the government starts upholding the constitution. I think President Bush and President Obama are to blame. Congress is a disgrace to our country.

Re; Obama

YES & NO, Just like Bush when he was in office. I have never known any one to spend him or her self out of debt and i have been around for eighty years. May the the good Lord help us all.


And spouses came why? When we are spending someone elses money the men stay in the same room and the women stay in the same room and our spouses stay home! I never submit my meal expenses, someone else doesn't need to pay for my dinner. Come on now. Lets furlow city workers to pay for vacation. Lets spend our road improvements money for a Broadway show. What is next?

Every level of government is

Every level of government is completely out of control, from the feds to local. Spend, spend, spend..........this is the battle cry of most elected officials. Citizens are losing their jobs, their homes, their retirements, and these clowns continue to waste taxpayer dollars like never before. Talk about abuse of power. I used to predict that our nation would be gone within 25 years, but I think closer to 10 is more accurate. When you deal with someone else's money, you cut corners, you economize as much as possible and trim all the waste. Why is no one being held accountable?