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Councilwomen say conference was useful

December 14, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

A national conference in Charlotte, N.C., last week was great for its lessons and networking, Hagerstown City Council members who attended said Tuesday.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said the conference was "very informative" and "invaluable" for what she learned about her colleagues, Councilwomen Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean.

Nigh said she was glad to hear someone from Oklahoma at the conference comment on Hagerstown's three women representing a majority of the five-person City Council.

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This was the first time Hagerstown was represented at the National League of Cities' Congress of Cities Conference, which ran Dec. 6 to 10.

During the conference, Latricia Good, a media associate for the National League of Cities, said the conference gives government officials chances to network, become better leaders and hear from experts.

She said over 2,800 people were expected to attend.

The city of Hagerstown is covering the cost of sending Nigh, Cromer and Parson-McBean to the conference, including registration, hotel rooms, airfare and meals.

In Hagerstown, each council member annually may use up to $1,000 for conventions, travel or other expenses. The mayor's limit is $3,000.

During a comment period at the end of Tuesday's council meeting, Nigh criticized a Herald-Mail story about the conference, alleging that the newspaper doesn't scrutinize men in city government the same.

"We are singled out," she said. "We are the women."

Cromer agreed about the gender bias, saying the newspaper hasn't written about men attending Maryland Municipal League's annual conference in Ocean City, Md.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner defended the city for sending three council members to Charlotte. He said conferences are for work and noted that Cromer had to shut down her law practice, and lose revenue, for a week.

Still, the council could have handled the situation better, he said.

"The error was in not having open, frank and lengthy discussions about it," he said.

He advised colleagues to be prepared for questions about how they spend public money.

"We're subject to that scrutiny," he said.

Metzner offered to use some of his $1,000 council expense account to help pay for the Charlotte trip, if necessary.

Each conference registration was $355. Each council member received $300 in cash in advance for meals. Council members were to submit the cost of the hotel rooms and airfare afterward.

Cromer said she and Nigh shared a hotel room to save the city money.

She also ordered - with her own money - copies of conference seminars on CD-ROM and plans to share them after she burns her own copies.

"We're all going to benefit through this," Mayor Richard F. Trump said, defending the trip as an educational opportunity.

Nigh, Cromer and Parson-McBean said they were grateful the city gave them a chance to go. Critics probably are afraid of the effect three female leaders could have on government, Nigh said.

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