D.C. Council Leaves Taxpayers with $14K Bill for Vegas Trip

Friday, 25 Jul 2014 04:10 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Taxpayers will be forced to pay a $14,000 bill for six Washington, D.C. Council members to attend a lavish convention in Las Vegas, complete with a red-carpet party, clowns, and a mind reader.

The Washington Times reports city officials attended the annual Global Retail Real Estate Convention, a forum the District said it uses to attract new business and investment.

The cost of the trip varied significantly by council member. One member submitted expenses of $1,000 while another claimed $3,000, the Times reported based on expense reports the newspaper obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Democrat Muriel Bowser, a candidate for mayor, booked the most expensive hotel room of any of her colleagues. She checked in at the Trump International Hotel at a cost of $424 per night for two nights of her four-night stay. Her total bill came to $2,820, including a breakfast charge of $78, the Times reported.

Democrat Yvette Alexander's bill was the highest of all the members on the trip with total expenses, including her flight and four-night stay, totaling $2,919.

Alexander defended the expense claims, saying the expenditures were already allocated within council members' budgets. She added that attendance at the conference was important because the personal interactions help develop beneficial relationships with potential investors.

"They know about the logistics of the development, but they don't really have the intimate knowledge of the neighborhoods and the history," she told the Times. "And when the elected officials are there, it really means that we're serious and everyone is on board."

Alexander also said that the hotel and flight prices were higher than usual because the Billboard Music Awards were taking place at the same time as the convention.

The council secretary signed off on all of the expenses with the exception of a $99 payment by Alexander for an upgrade on her airline seat which she had to repay, according to the Times.

The expenses of other council members, including at-large Democrat Vincent Orange, Democrat Kenyan McDuffie, and Democrat Jack Evans, all fell somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000.

Evans also defended the trip and complained about the scrutiny, the Times reported. "We all work pretty hard out there," he said. "People aren't out gambling or slacking off that I know of."

Anita Bonds, at-large Democrat, spent the least with expenses for a two-night stay of $968 at the Treasure Island Hotel along with a red-eye flight home.

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