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City throws party on taxpayers' money

June 02, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN-Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and four of the five Hagerstown City Council members spent nearly $800 of taxpayers' money last December to throw a party at a downtown restaurant.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the city has held the party at least each of the 14 years since he was elected.

"That's just something that's taken place forever," he said.

The event was the equivalent of a holiday office party that's thrown to make employees feel appreciated, Metzner said.

Asked whether the party should be held at the taxpayers' expense, Metzner said, "That's debatable."

The party was held a few months before the city released budget projections that showed a $1.2 million deficit for fiscal year 2008-09.

City Finance Director Alfred Martin said the party was paid for with funds from the mayor's and council's lodging and meals accounts.

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An unknown number of the city's department supervisors also attended the event, city Clerk Donna Spickler said.

According to the receipt, city officials ordered shrimp, crab puffs and a fruit and cheese tray, among other items. The bill came to $770.60, which included a $118 tip.

Bruchey said he didn't know the bill was that high.

The party was a holiday celebration for about 40 people, including himself, some council members and a few department heads, Bruchey said. City officials invited private residents who were at the restaurant that evening to join the party as well, he said.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh was the only council member who did not attend the party.

In her six years on the council, Nigh said she has gone to only two such events, but doubts they were as expensive as that in December 2006.

"Honestly, I just don't go to a lot of functions," she said. "I just want to see what the people have to say about this one."

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said she thought the mayor was footing the bill.

"At the time, I just thought it was a nice thing he was doing," she said. "If we want to do this in the future, there should be a limit on the spending, and we should know where the money is coming from."

Councilman Martin Brubaker did not return two telephone calls seeking comment.

Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean, who has asked the media not to call her at home, did not return a telephone call and an e-mail that were left for her at City Hall.

On Friday, Karen Giffin, city community affairs director, said Brubaker and Parson-McBean didn't respond to comment on this story because they were aware of the mayor's reply and felt that was adequate.

What they ordered

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and four of the five members of the Hagerstown City Council spent nearly $800 of taxpayers' money in December for a party at a downtown restaurant. Here's what they ordered.

·Sixteen orders of Gorgonzola cheese dip served with toast rounds and celery sticks - $112

·Eight orders of large shrimp served with cocktail sauce - $39.60

·Six orders of large shrimp baked in a flaky pastry - $54

·Eight orders of minicrab puffs - $72

·Twelve orders of mini Maryland crab balls - $108

·One fruit and cheese tray - $75

·Twenty-four orders of summer rolls: Tender asparagus rolled in smoked turkey breast and served with blue cheese and raspberry vinaigrette - $192

·Gratuity - $118

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