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Hagerstown City officials' use of conference spending account varies

October 18, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown's mayor and city council spent a little more than half of the money they were authorized to use in fiscal year 2007-08 to attend conferences and conduct other city business, according to city documents.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the five members of the council spent a combined $12,718.12, according to documents. They were allowed to spend $24,450.

As a whole, the council is permitted to spend $20,000 per year, or $4,000 each, City Finance Director Alfred Martin said. If one council member exceeds his or her limit, however, money can be transferred from another council member's account to cover the overage.

In 2006, the council increased the annual amount of money that each member was allowed to spend from $1,000 to $4,000. The council justified the increase, in part, because conferences often cost more than $1,000 to attend and the members were paying the difference out of their own pockets.

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Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean spent the most of any of the council members for the second year in a row. She spent $6,339.75 in fiscal year 2007-08, compared to $5,389.09 in fiscal year 2006-07, according to documents.

The majority of the money that Parson-McBean spent was used to pay the cost to attend two National League of Cities conferences in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. Those expenses included $373.10 for airfare to New Orleans and $3,177.15 to stay at hotels for 12 nights during both conferences.

Parson-McBean wrote in a prepared statement that the information she received at the conferences would make her a better public servant.

"The ability to represent the City of Hagerstown at the National League of Cities conferences allows the council member the opportunity to partake in Leadership Training Institute Seminars classes offered by NLC," Parson-McBean's statement said. "The gathering of information and knowledge from leading national experts in the fields of national trends in economic development, public safety, health care, and public policies enhances one's ability to make a more informed decision as a council member."

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer reduced her spending from $2,463.09 in fiscal year 2006-07 to $244 in fiscal year 2007-08, according to documents. Cromer did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

A majority of the $1,774.52 that Councilman Martin E. Brubaker spent was used to pay for meals, lodging and other costs associated with his trip in June to the Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City, Md.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh spent $234 to attend 10 public breakfasts, luncheons and dinners over the course of the year.

Nigh said she didn't find any fault with the council sending one or two of its members to conferences for the learning experience.

"I just don't waste city money," Nigh said of the money she spent. "I usually end up giving money back."

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner spent nothing over the last two years.

Bruchey spent $3,664.02 in fiscal year 2007-08, compared to $7,865.48 in fiscal year 2006-07, according to documents.

"I just didn't go to as many events as I went to last year," Bruchey said in response to his spending decrease.

Bruchey is permitted to spend $4,450 per year, according to records.

The Herald-Mail has reported that the mayor was permitted to spend $3,450 last year.




Mayor and city council expenses



The Hagerstown mayor is allowed to spend $4,450 per year to conduct city business.

Amount spent by Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II in fiscal year 2007-08 -- $3,664.02

Amount under budget -- $785.98

The five members of the Hagerstown City Council are allowed to spend $20,000 per year, or $4,000 each, to conduct city business.

Amount spent in fiscal year 2007-08 -- $9,054.10

Amount under budget -- $10,945.90

Amount spent by each council member:

  • Martin Brubaker -- $1,774.52

  • Kelly S. Cromer -- $244

  • Lewis C. Metzner -- $0

  • Penny M. Nigh -- $234

  • Alesia Parson-McBean -- $6,339.75

    Fiscal year 2007-08 covers the period from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008.

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