The Main Stream

May 31, 2012 1:15 AM

City and County junket trips coming under fire

TUCSON - The controversy surrounding City Councilman, Paul Cunningham after a recent business trip to San Diego has highlighted a different issue now.

Its an issue that could affect the whole city.

Why are expensive trips out of state needed in the first place and who's paying for it all?

The theme of the trip to San Diego was "Growing your own - cultivating assets and translating those into economic opportunities."

It's something Tucson desperately needs.

In a statement given to News 4 TREO said, "During the trip we learned from San Diego's success at building a knowledge-based economy that creates jobs geometrically from the start-up and expansion of companies rather than incrementally from recruitment and relocation."

But Councilman Steve Kozachik doesn't buy it. He said, "If its truly about economic development it needs to be apples to apples. There's no reason for us to fly to a place that is so totally dis-similar to Tucson to try and talk about generating economic development."

Then there's the cost issue. Kozachik said he doesn't know how it was funded, but if it was tax payer dollars, he said the backlash won't be pretty. Kozachik said, "If it were a waste of tax payers' money than tax payers will let us know at the next election."

TREO said that's not the case. In a statement it said, "Trips are conducted by invitation only. Participants pay $2,000 all inclusive. Eight public officials were granted scholarships for the trip. Scholarships are privately funded. The majority of the participants were private business leaders."

But if they didn't get a free pass how did the rest of the people pay? Did they pay out of pocket or did they charge their employer, the city?

That's what Kozachik hopes to find out in a special study session on Tuesday. He said, "Everybody who was involved in trip, just bring it out into the open. Just lay it out there, here are the costs and here are the benefits. It's pretty simple."

Kozachik said he really hopes it was all privately funded and that the trip will really pay off for Tucson, but until it's all laid out in front of everyone he will remain skeptical.

His request for the study session hasn't been granted yet. He said the mayor is trying to see if TREO and all the major players are available. Kozachik said for this, they should make themselves available.

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