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Council Democrats and staff rack up $10,000 travel tab

Tax dollars spent on DC trip to attend National Geographic gala

Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner
Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner

If nothing else, a taxpayer-funded special on the National Geographic Channel touting San Diego's food, culture, and business environment has paid off for junketing elected officials and their staffers.

As earlier reported here, Republican county supervisor Ron Roberts and San Diego airport board vice-chairman Paul Robinson — a downtown lobbyist and leading member of the GOP Lincoln Club — traveled to Tokyo for the video's premiere there.

Funding for the puffy production, aired by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox-run channel, included $100,000 from UCSD as well as infusions of cash from SeaWorld, Qualcomm, Sempra, and other local industrial lights.

Video:

Smart Cities preview

Now, records obtained from the city after a request under the California Public Records Act show that San Diego Democratic city-council members Sherri Lightner, Marti Emerald, and Myrtle Cole and their staffers partook of the V.I.P. life in Washington DC during a trip to unveil the program to national politicos.

As originally reported here, Lightner and her two fellow Democrats announced their journey in an April 28 news release, referring to their "Families First" agenda.

"The delegation is a proactive effort to advocate for support of the City of San Diego’s top priorities and issues," the release said.

"Among the topics to be discussed are economic development, infrastructure financing, workforce development, homelessness and cyber security. In addition to industry specific meetings, the San Diego delegation will be meeting with the other elected officials from the San Diego region, including Congressman Scott Peters, Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressman Juan Vargas."

Added the announcement: "Council President Lightner will also address San Diego’s water issues, and provide the closing remarks for the Washington, D.C. premiere of National Geographic’s 'World's Smart Cities San Diego,' which is airing on the National Geographic Channel in the coming weeks."

"Jennifer Nichols Kearns has worked in the field of advertising, marketing, event planning and communications for over 17 years."

Asked who was picking up the tab, Lightner's director of communications Jennifer Kearns responded by email: "Each Councilmember (and in fact, each department) has a line item in their budget for business trips. This trip is being paid for out of each Councilmember’s allotted Council budgets for travel involving Council responsibilities."

Travel expense records subsequently furnished by the city show that Lightner and Emerald each ran up tabs $1196. Cole's report said she spent $1207.

In addition to the three Democrats, the records reveal that a raft of council staffers went along for the ride, bringing the total cost of the delegation to more than $10,000.

In an April 2 memo to Lori Witzel, the council's director of administration, Lightner advised that two employees — her chief of staff Erin Demorest and chief of policy Maureen Kantner — would join her on the trip, beginning April 29.

Erin Demorest

"I will be returning to San Diego on May 1, 2015 while my two staff members will be returning to San Diego on May 3, 2015 for personal reasons. Please note that they will not be reimbursed during this two-day extension."

Expense reports furnished by the city show that Demorest's costs totaled $1142 and Kantner spent $1209.

Jimmie Slack

Others making the trip included Cole's chief of policy Pamela Ison, with a tab of $1266; and Jimmie Slack, Cole's chief of staff, who reported expenses of $1182.

Emerald's chief of staff Ricardo Flores also went along, at a cost of $1247, as did Marisa Beruman, Emerald's deputy chief of staff, with expenses of $1146. Flores is running to replace Emerald, who has endorsed him.

According to the trip's official itinerary, in addition to the 6 p.m. National Geographic gala on April 30, the council trio caught a White House tour at 7:45 that morning, then spent an hour or so each at the Treasury and Commerce departments. They lunched with Norma Kraymen, a cybersecurity specialist with the city's contract lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs

The group was scheduled for half an hour each with Democratic Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis, and was also set to meet with fellow Democrat Juan Vargas. On Friday, May 1, the delegation had a 10 a.m. meeting at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the itinerary says.

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Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner
Myrtle Cole, Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner

If nothing else, a taxpayer-funded special on the National Geographic Channel touting San Diego's food, culture, and business environment has paid off for junketing elected officials and their staffers.

As earlier reported here, Republican county supervisor Ron Roberts and San Diego airport board vice-chairman Paul Robinson — a downtown lobbyist and leading member of the GOP Lincoln Club — traveled to Tokyo for the video's premiere there.

Funding for the puffy production, aired by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox-run channel, included $100,000 from UCSD as well as infusions of cash from SeaWorld, Qualcomm, Sempra, and other local industrial lights.

Video:

Smart Cities preview

Now, records obtained from the city after a request under the California Public Records Act show that San Diego Democratic city-council members Sherri Lightner, Marti Emerald, and Myrtle Cole and their staffers partook of the V.I.P. life in Washington DC during a trip to unveil the program to national politicos.

As originally reported here, Lightner and her two fellow Democrats announced their journey in an April 28 news release, referring to their "Families First" agenda.

"The delegation is a proactive effort to advocate for support of the City of San Diego’s top priorities and issues," the release said.

"Among the topics to be discussed are economic development, infrastructure financing, workforce development, homelessness and cyber security. In addition to industry specific meetings, the San Diego delegation will be meeting with the other elected officials from the San Diego region, including Congressman Scott Peters, Congresswoman Susan Davis and Congressman Juan Vargas."

Added the announcement: "Council President Lightner will also address San Diego’s water issues, and provide the closing remarks for the Washington, D.C. premiere of National Geographic’s 'World's Smart Cities San Diego,' which is airing on the National Geographic Channel in the coming weeks."

"Jennifer Nichols Kearns has worked in the field of advertising, marketing, event planning and communications for over 17 years."

Asked who was picking up the tab, Lightner's director of communications Jennifer Kearns responded by email: "Each Councilmember (and in fact, each department) has a line item in their budget for business trips. This trip is being paid for out of each Councilmember’s allotted Council budgets for travel involving Council responsibilities."

Travel expense records subsequently furnished by the city show that Lightner and Emerald each ran up tabs $1196. Cole's report said she spent $1207.

In addition to the three Democrats, the records reveal that a raft of council staffers went along for the ride, bringing the total cost of the delegation to more than $10,000.

In an April 2 memo to Lori Witzel, the council's director of administration, Lightner advised that two employees — her chief of staff Erin Demorest and chief of policy Maureen Kantner — would join her on the trip, beginning April 29.

Erin Demorest

"I will be returning to San Diego on May 1, 2015 while my two staff members will be returning to San Diego on May 3, 2015 for personal reasons. Please note that they will not be reimbursed during this two-day extension."

Expense reports furnished by the city show that Demorest's costs totaled $1142 and Kantner spent $1209.

Jimmie Slack

Others making the trip included Cole's chief of policy Pamela Ison, with a tab of $1266; and Jimmie Slack, Cole's chief of staff, who reported expenses of $1182.

Emerald's chief of staff Ricardo Flores also went along, at a cost of $1247, as did Marisa Beruman, Emerald's deputy chief of staff, with expenses of $1146. Flores is running to replace Emerald, who has endorsed him.

According to the trip's official itinerary, in addition to the 6 p.m. National Geographic gala on April 30, the council trio caught a White House tour at 7:45 that morning, then spent an hour or so each at the Treasury and Commerce departments. They lunched with Norma Kraymen, a cybersecurity specialist with the city's contract lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs

The group was scheduled for half an hour each with Democratic Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis, and was also set to meet with fellow Democrat Juan Vargas. On Friday, May 1, the delegation had a 10 a.m. meeting at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the itinerary says.

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Comments
8

Why can't the councilmembers meet with Representatives Peters, Davis and Vargas when the latter are back home in San Diego? Was it really necessary to fly to DC to see the video's premiere? Why would anyone in the world want to hear Lightner's "closing remarks" there? Why were staff members also included in the freebies--for hand-holding, luggage-carrying, adoring smiles and foot massages?

May 29, 2015

You would have to bring that up, wouldn't you?

May 29, 2015

Any way some of that travel budget could get transferred to the pothole department?

May 29, 2015

And you, too.

May 29, 2015

Transferred? Uhhhhhh, no.

May 29, 2015

Not only do the many City Council staffers junket to D.C. to meet with local (and available) Congressmembers! This City Council has a raft of staff who, in the era of Strong Mayor, never do squat for their constituents because their Council bosses have no power. My experience with these people is that they dissemble at community meetings and don't return calls.

May 29, 2015

All politicians are the same. They use their position to take "junkets" to anywhere. There is no one or no place anywhere that cannot be visited by the use of technology. No local politician needs to go to DC or anywhere.

June 1, 2015

Crooks. Plain and simple.

June 1, 2015

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