Five Houston County employees, including three commission members, met with county officials from across the country, in an annual convention last month. However, in what turned into a public relations catastrophe, the National Association of Counties chose Honolulu, Hawaii, as this year's location for the five day event.
News 4, like television stations across the country, scrutinized the plans for this Hawaii trip, because the officials were flying out there on taxpayers' money. Expense reports show that the county spent about $3,800 more in Honolulu this year than they did last year in Phoenix.
Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver says he has no regrets, and that this year's National Association of County Officials convention was just as fulfilling as any other one. Culver’s expense report showed that he spent just over $1,000, and he paid for his own airfare.
News 4 predicted last month that the trip would cost taxpayers at least $10,000. The final tally was over $11,000 – even after Commissioner Frances Cook decided at the last minute not to go. However, Culver considers the price tag reasonable, and he says commissioners brought back great ideas, from the possibility of a metro government to better prescription drug benefits.
Previous conventions were in Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Mobile - not Honolulu. And that did not bode well with taxpayers or the media. County commission members chose not to attend other conventions in the last year, to save money for this trip. Mister Culver’s expense report showed that he spent just over a thousand dollars. He did pay for his own airfare.
Next year's convention is in Chicago, and the year after that, it’s in Nashville.