Cost of Mayor's Trip to Vegas Undisclosed
Th Annapolis Economic Development Corporation turned down a request to reveal how much they spent to send Mayor Josh Cohen to a conference in Las Vegas this May.
Annapolis residents will have to wait—possibly forever—to find out how much a private group spent to send Mayor Josh Cohen to a Las Vegas Convention.
"The reason that the city didn't disclose is because we paid all the bills," said Lara Fritts, President of Annapolis' Economic Development Corporation.
The economic development group paid Cohen's expenses to attend the Global Retail Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas in May.
The organization is a private, nonprofit organization that according to its website, works "in partnership with the business community, city government and residents to retain, expand and attract business to the City of Annapolis."
The group also receives public funding from the city.
Its board voted to send Cohen, a Democrat, to a four-day conference in Las Vegas this May that was thrown by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The convention is a popular networking event for business and governments that draws more than 30,000 people from across the globe annually, according to its website.
After the convention, The Baltimore Sun filed Maryland Public Information Act requests asking for the all receipts submitted by nine government institutions around Maryland that went to Vegas. The purpose was to review how taxpayer dollars were spent.
The Sun reported Monday that the city of Annapolis and Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration were the only two governments that failed to meet the 30-day information request deadline.
Rhonda Wardlaw, a spokeswoman for Cohen, said she's not able to reveal how much was spent.
"EDC did everything. They booked his flight and put him up in the room. We did nothing," Wardlaw said. "Once [Fritts] took it, it was out of my hands. There is nothing the city could have done to comply with the request."
And the EDC has declined to provide details on the cost.
"Under advice of counsel, the board chose not disclose that information," Fritts said. "Once you disclose certain financial information, the precedent has been set."
Despite the funding from the city, the organization is not a city agency and its records are exempt from Maryland's Public Information Act, Fritts said.
Wardlaw said the mayor will not need to disclose the amount as a gift in his annual disclosure report because he was "recruited" by the council and he played a "critical role" in securing new business for the city.