Ocean City trips are particularly expensive during the peak months of July and August. How pricey? It’s a matter of degree.
The Baltimore City Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved travel expenses — including three hotel nights — averaging $1,394 total for each of four City Council members to attend the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference in Ocean City in mid-August.
It approved similar expenses for the City Council President Nick Mosby. But his bill was twice as much: $3,008.
Agenda items for BOE’s meeting show the reason why. The hotel rooms of council members Sharon Middleton, John Bullock, Mark Conway and Antonio Glover were under or near the standard per diem of $325 for the beach resort town.
Mosby’s hotel was booked at $539 a night, so he requested an extra $214 daily, plus “an additional $40.00/night for meals and incidental expenses,” according to the agenda.
Also, Mosby plans to arrive a day earlier than the others “due to the location of the conference and start times,” his request said.
The room of Middleton, the council vice president, was $294, according to the agenda. Because that was under the per diem rate, she was approved for a little extra —$9 a day — for meals and incidentals. Unlike Mosby and the other council members, she was not assessed the conference registration fee of $355 because she is a past president of the association.
The board approved the requests of Mosby and the other council members without dissent.
Mosby did not directly reply to Baltimore Sun inquiries seeking comment and asking which hotel he planned to stay in.
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Candance L. Greene, the council’s deputy director of communications, responded to Sun questions by sending a copy of the agenda request in which Mosby explained the purpose of the trip.
“At this conference, MACo and county leaders will explore resources available for recovering and struggling business, creative ways to achieve common goals, and partnerships available to take communities from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving,’ the summation said. It said the extra cost of $214 — totaling $856 over the four days — was sought “due to the cost of the hotel.”
Other costs in Mosby’s request included the conference registration fee [$355], hotel taxes [$237] and gas for his city-issued car [$100].
The annual summer conference is often popular among elected officials. It is held at a time when top hotels — oceanfront or bay front — can cost more than $500 a night.
City Comptroller Bill Henry, a member of the Board of Estimates, decline to comment. Besides Henry, the board consists of Mayor Brandon Scott, City Solicitor James L Shea, Director of Public Works Jason Mitchell and Mosby.
On Tuesday, Mosby told the board in a memorandum that he would abstain from voting on any of the council travel funds, including his own, “because the requests made by members of City Council were prepared with the assistance of staff employed in the Office of the Council President.”
Henry also abstained from those votes. He has said in the past that BOE’s process of approving travel funds gives the mayor too much authority over other elected officials.