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Council candidates speak out about Padgett's spending

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Elections for municipal offices are less than 100 days away, and candidates are working hard to get their names and viewpoints noticed. Wilmington City Councilwoman Laura Padgett is running for reelection, but she's making waves after being denied reimbursement for a trip she took to Washington, DC.

Padgett's request to be reimbursed for around $700 was denied by the city's Audit Committee when they decided her travel expenses cost more than what's allowed.

"I think it's irresponsible for a council member to be travelling all over the continent to California and to Panama to do research into traffic planning," City Council candidate Napier Fuller said. "I think you can certainly do that research right here in Wilmington more effectively and at lower cost to the citizens."

Fuller is running against Padgett for City Council. He believes trips to conventions about transportation and traffic should be left up to city planners not city leaders.

Joshua Fulton, who is also running for City Council, agrees.

"I don't think Laura Padgett should be able to go wherever she wants or wherever the League of Municipalities tells her to go and think it's going to be reimbursed by the Wilmington taxpayer," Fulton said. "If she needs to go somewhere, it should be for Wilmington business, and that's the only thing that should be reimbursed to her."

Fulton says the city's spending is out of control.

Councilman Ronald Sparks is running for reelection, as well. He says he neither agrees nor disagrees with the decision to deny Padgett's reimbursement, but he does believe the Audit Committee should not have the power to make operational decisions, only to enforce policies and bring their recommendations before the full council.

Sparks believes involvement in national committees is important. He said he realizes travel is expensive and the council does not want to squander the public's money.

"We're not gallivanting around the countryside, enjoying lavish trips to far away, great lands," Sparks said. "We're just trying to lobby our legislators, be a part of committees that are important on the state and local level as well and try to find ways to save us money here and find money for us."

Wilmington City Council meets at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Sparks says the reimbursement denial is not final and the issue could be brought up again tonight.

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