Where peers spend $ 50 or less, Rocky Mount executive retirement costs taxpayers $ 70,000 :: WRAL.com
Rocky Mountain, North Carolina – Documents obtained by WRAL News show that the town of Rocky Mount’s annual retreat in April cost taxpayers more than $ 70,000.
The cost of the trip divided city leaders, some of whom insisted the retreat be held locally.
“I think as leaders we need to set an example for our citizens and our staff,” said Councilor Lige Daughtridge.
Records received by WRAL News show that the mayor, city council, city manager and several other city leaders spent $ 70,444.99 over three days and two nights at the Omni Grove Park Inn, a luxury resort in Asheville.
From April 7 to 9, the city spent more than $ 43,000 on the hotel, including $ 23,299.25 on hotel rooms for two nights and $ 12,173.27 on meals.
The city also paid two consultants $ 20,000 as part of the trip.
April’s pullback marked a sharp increase in the price of the annual getaway. In March, WRAL News reported that the city’s last two retreats, in 2018 and 2019, cost $ 30,398.35 combined.
City council voted 4 to 3 to hold the retreat in Asheville at a meeting on February 8, with promoters Reuben Blackwell, TJ Walker, Andre Knight and Richard Joyner saying they wanted the opportunity to see the Asheville affordable housing projects in person.
“It’s a lot of great ideas, but the proof in the pudding is in the eating,” Blackwell said. “I would like to see how it worked, let me see the streets, what the neighborhood looks like. “
During that February meeting, Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson objected to the retirement trip, saying it should have taken place at the Rocky Mount Events Center instead.
Records show Roberson paid for his own travel and hotel expenses.
“It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that we went to Asheville to discuss affordable housing while staying and hosting the retreat at the luxurious Grove Park Inn complex,” Daughtride told WRAL News. “How can you talk about affordable housing in one of the most expensive resorts in the country when the people of Rocky Mount cannot afford food, shelter or utilities? “
In a statement, city manager Rochelle Small-Toney said she supported holding the retreat in Asheville because she was following her instructions from city council and supporting her decisions.
Small-Toney also said the Omni Grove Park Inn was selected because no other location in Asheville could allow them to broadcast the meetings live to the community while still providing enough space for social distancing.
WRAL News compared the Rocky Mount retreat to that of similar communities.
The annual Nashville retreat takes place in city rooms, with an estimated cost of $ 50 for water and snacks. No meals or accommodation are provided.
The City of Wilson told WRAL News it stopped hosting out-of-town retreats more than a decade ago, for the last time a half-day retreat in the Hall of the consulting in 2016.
WRAL News asked the four board members who voted in favor of travel to Asheville and the Grove Park Inn why the resort was chosen over a cheaper hotel.
Only Ward 4 representative Walker responded. He said the council got to see how Asheville executed its affordable housing projects and that they could continue to execute their community development variant.
In March, City Manager Small-Toney estimated the trip would cost between $ 16,000 and $ 18,000. Asked about the difference between her estimate and the actual cost, she did not respond.