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Harford officials spent more than $21,000 to attend Ocean City conference

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and 16 members of his staff, as well as five members of the County Council, attended the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City in August, at a cost to county taxpayers of more than $21,000.

The county administration spent $17,511, nearly twice as much as the previous administration spent last year to send seven representatives.

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The County Council spent $4,327, about half of what it spent last year, according to reimbursement figures from the county.

Glassman did not submit any lodging expenses for the conference and the county is not reimbursing attendees for any meals, only lodging, mileage and conference registration, county spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

"The county executive was elected to the 2015 MACo Board of Directors and plans for Harford County to be a bigger player in the 'Big 7' Maryland counties as part of our economic development strategy," Mumby noted. The Big 7 is an informal association of the chief executives of the state's largest jurisdictions: Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

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"We showcased local businesses at the conference in addition to attending conference meetings and information sessions," Mumby said.

Administration attendees included Mumby, who has since been promoted to director of the Office of Governmental and Community Relations; Director of Administration Billy Boniface; county executive secretary Mary Jane "Janie" Ballard; Economic Development Director Karen Holt; Emergency Services Director Edward Hopkins, Planning and Zoning Director Brad Killian, County Attorney Melissa Lambert, Parks and Recreation Director Jim Malone, Chief of Citizens Affairs and Administrative Services Michael Mason; Procurement Director Karen Myers, Economic Development Deputy Director Steven Overbay, Housing Agency Director Len Parrish, Human Resources Director Jim Richardson, County Treasurer Robert Sandlass, Community Services Director Amber Shrodes and Human Services Deputy Director Tiffany Stephens.

This year's conference, which ran Aug. 12-15 at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, included a few interesting sessions on topics such as education and the new state regulations on medical marijuana, Council President Richard Slutzky said.

The event was structured a bit differently this year, he said, as it usually includes a menu of conferences and presentations happening at the same time.

This year had fewer options, perhaps because "they had a very poor turnout last summer," Slutzky said, speculating the low turnout resulted from 2014 being an election year.

"I was a little distressed in that they didn't have as many choices," he said of this year's conference. Still, Slutzky said he still feels it was worthwhile to attend and important to represent Harford's perspective on issues that may eventually require lobbying in Annapolis..

Both council members and county employees have access to government-issued credit cards. Any expenses made with the cards would have been included in the totals to be reimbursed, Slutzky and Mumby said.

Administration representatives spent $10,750 total on lodging, $1,915 on mileage and tolls and $4,845 on conference registration, according to an expense report provided by Mumby.

Councilmen Joe Woods and Mike Perrone did not attend the conference, according to a report from Council Administrator Mylia Dixon. No council staff attended.

Last year, the administration of then-Executive David Craig spent about $9,000 for seven representatives to attend, while the County Council paid about $8,000 for seven attendees.

The costs of attending the conference have varied. In 2012, for example, about $20,000 was spent for the council and administration to attend.

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