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Conference of counties fails to impress Lippy reimburses $250 to Carroll


Three of them enjoyed hearing Johnny Mathis sing. Two of them liked the underground tunnel trip. And one of them isn't going back next year.

Carroll Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy wasn't happy with a National Association of Counties conference that he and his colleagues attended in Chicago last week.

"I consider the first two [days] a waste of taxpayers' money," he said Friday.

Mr. Lippy said he wrote the county a check for $250 to cover his hotel and food expenses for the first two days of the five-day conference. He missed a tour of a waste facility because organizers gave him the wrong starting time, and a conference on research and technology proved disappointing.

The rest of the trip was OK, he said.

"Not all the seminars were bad. I found the real lasting value was the people I met," Mr. Lippy said.

He said he would not repay the county for the total cost of his trip -- about $1,000 -- because part of it was worthwhile. He heard about a Virginia county's efforts to make its government more efficient and saw 31 miles of tunnels below the Chicago River that handle overflow from a sewage treatment plant.

"It was absolutely an engineering marvel," Mr. Lippy said.

Next year's NACo conference is in Las Vegas, and Mr. Lippy said he's staying home.

"I can't justify spending that much of the taxpayers' money," he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he also liked the tunnel tour.

He said he received some useful information at the conference, although the meeting itself was disorganized.

"The information booth didn't have information," he said.

"Farm Bureau conventions are a couple of notches higher than NACo conventions. There seems to be more professionalism," said Mr. Dell, a past president of the Carroll County Farm Bureau.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said she attended a workshop presented by two bond houses about the economy, and she talked with representatives of composting companies.

Before she went to Chicago, she said she might pay her own hotel and airfare expenses. Friday, she said she would let the county pick up the tab.

She shared a hotel room at the conference with Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, a Baltimore councilwoman.

Highlights of the conference for all three commissioners included hearing President Clinton speak by satellite hookup, and listening to speeches by Attorney General Janet Reno and ABC-TV and National Public Radio reporter Cokie Roberts. They also liked Johnny Mathis.

"There's always time for fun," Mr. Dell said.

"Overall, I felt it [the conference] was worthwhile," he said. "Does the public want to know, 'Can we justify the money we spent?' I'm not going to try to do that.

"It's something that enhances our ability" to govern, he said.

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