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Nonprofit Spent About $2,000 Sending Mayor to Vegas

Mayor's office reveals how much the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation spent on his trip to Las Vegas this May after the council refused to release its records.

A private, nonprofit group spent more than $2,000 to send Mayor Josh Cohen to a four-day convention in Las Vegas this May, according to city records released to Patch.

Rhonda Wardlaw, a spokeswoman for the city, shared the specific financial details about Cohen's trip after the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation turned down a Maryland Public Information Act request made by The Baltimore Sun

"Under advice of counsel, the board chose not disclose that information," said Lara Fritts, President of Annapolis' Economic Development Corporation. "Once you disclose certain financial information, the precedent has been set."

The economic development group paid for all of Cohen's expenses when he attended the Global Retail Real Estate Convention—which 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.

Cohen is the only known Maryland official who traveled to the convention on private money.

The organization is a nonprofit 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."

Despite the funding from the city, the development corporation is not a city agency and its records are exempt from Maryland's Public Information Act, Fritts said.

Wardlaw initially said she didn't know much was spent for the trip because the city wasn't responsible for things like booking the flights or the hotel. 

"After coming off a weeks vacation to hear about AEDC not turning over the numbers, I demanded that the mayor's office dollars get released," Wardlaw said.

Here is the itemized list of expenses emailed to Patch by the city:

Item:

Cost: Airfare $458.60 Hotel $1097.60 Meals    $71 per diem ($355 per person) 
Taxi/Transfers Used shuttle or shared  $30.00 Full Registration $450.00 Total expense

$2036.20

In comparison to the $2,036.20 the council spent on Cohen, the city of Havre de Grace spent $2,600 on two attendees to the same conference, according to The Sun.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz spent about $2,000, putting him and Cohen about even. Howard County spent $7,700 on the trip, and one employee spent $176 on food at the hotel in a single night, according to receipts.

Harford County County Executive David R. Craig spent $343 on meals as compared to the $355 Cohen spent.

 

Editor's Note: This story has been updated in an effort to clairfy that the these records were made public at the insistence of the mayor's office.

Karen Essen August 07, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Looking forward to Faux Annapolis' response to this on Facebook! ;)
Mike August 08, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Three questions leap to mind: 1. Why did the "Annapolis' Economic Development Corporation" WANT Josh Cohen to attend enough to cough up over 2 grand? 2. Why did Josh Cohen CHOOSE to accept? 3. While I don't know what the Mayor's work schedule is supposed to be, on paper, did he effectively miss work while he was away on this trip? (If he is supposed to be an FTE, for instance, did he take vacation or get paid by the city for the overlapping business time when he was supposed to be working as mayor?) This looks a lot like a gift by someone who wishes to curry some form of favor. Otherwise, why part with over two thousand hard-solicited dollars? Clearly, they want SOMETHING to come of this---what is that something?
Sean O'Neill August 09, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Mike, It was upon the request of the AEDC, who was told last year by interested businesses that they wished the Mayor was there to show his support and answer specific questions. If they recruit just one businesses, the tax dollars generated will be returned 100 fold. Imagine if it is 5 or 10 businesses that choose to come to Annapolis. This was money well spent in my eyes.

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