By Luke Broadwater
The Baltimore Sun
5:57 PM EDT, June 6, 2013
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's chief of staff is spending the week in Brazil at the New Cities Summit in Sao Paulo, an international conference for business, government and education leaders.
Alexander M. Sanchez did not submit a request for approval for the trip to the city's Board of Estimates prior to leaving for the conference, which took place Tuesday through Thursday. In an email, Sanchez said such a request was unnecessary because a private organization was paying for his travel.
"We were very excited to learn that the Living Cities Foundation would reimburse the (limited and reasonable) expenses of Chiefs of Staff of a small number of US cities, including Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, and Newark," Sanchez wrote. "No expenses related to the Summit were brought before the Board of Estimates because the City will not be paying for any expenses related to the Summit."
However, according to the city's administrative manual, the Board of Estimates "must take action" on travel requests if the trip "will require outside the continental United States regardless of source of funds, cost of trip, or length of absence."
Sanchez's away message says he will be "out of the office with limited access to email" through Sunday, June 9.
Questioned about seeking board approval upon return, Sanchez said he would "do whatever needs to be done as soon as possible."
Ben Hecht, the President & CEO of Living Cities Inc., said Baltimore residents will benefit from the experience Sanchez gains during the trip.
"Brazil leads the world in innovative ways of stimulating economic development and moving, low income people out of poverty especially their innovative cash transfer programs," Hecht wrote in an email. "We believe that first hand interaction and knowledge about these strategies helps local leaders, from the public and private sectors, to adapt learnings to their own environment."
Business, government and education leaders from around the world attended the conference, called "The Human City," including executives from Singapore, France, Colombia and England.
Hecht said that Baltimore could benefit, for instance, from learning how the Israelis have implemented mobile apps in public transportation and bike-sharing programs.
"Reducing the time that it takes for innovations being developed anywhere in the world to be brought to places like Baltimore is a priority of ours and those who care about cities being gateways of economic opportunity," he said. "We have found that connecting US cities and people like Alex to leaders, ideas and strategies in the US and abroad enables that to happen."
A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake declined to comment.
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