In a tweet sent out on Monday morning, Coffman said the council members signed up for a conference in Paris and their travel will be funded by public money. The city told FOX31 the trip cost each council member about $3,500, with the money taken from each council member’s annual $7,000 travel budget. It was approved by a deputy city manager.
Coffman, who has an $11,000 travel budget of his own, said “the optics are bad.”
“For Aurora city council members to be attending a conference, in Paris of all places, is an insult to the hardworking taxpayers of this city. This morning, I will be putting in a request to City Manager Jim Twombly for a complete breakdown of their expenses,” Coffman said.
“I think the mayor is being disgustingly dishonest and cynical, and I’d rather focus on the incredible content that we learned from this conference,” Marcano said.
The “International Making Cities Livable” conference is devoted to urban planning and housing issues. Marcano and Murillo attended the conference last year in Carmel, Indiana, and it was scheduled this year for the Paris suburb of Le Plessis-Robinson.
“It’s a real shame that someone has tried to weaponize a fund that helps us be better public servants, something that every council member except (Council Member) Ruben (Medina) has utilized, and something that has existed since before we were on council,” Murillo said. “I take our taxpayers’ dollars seriously. These conferences are incredible opportunities to learn. I learned a lot and am excited about sharing that with council, the people of Ward 1, and putting this information to work.”
Comparing other trips paid for by Aurora
The mayor went on a 4-day international trip of his own last year, along with Marcano and other council members, to identify a sister city in El Salvador. Coffman said he took the trip at the request of Aurora’s Office of International and Immigrant Affairs.
Other council members are traveling soon on a two-day trip to Washington, D.C., which Marcano criticized as a lobbying junket.
“It’s basically an opportunity to hobnob, to get drunk with and secure campaign contributions and promises for people with future political aspirations, and that costs more, mind you, more than my conference in Le Plessis-Robinson,” Marcano said.
Coffman said although the Paris trip was within the council members’ travel budget and being done for city business, “I think it’s an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Coffman said he will be putting forward a proposal to prohibit council members from using tax dollars to pay for a trip to an international conference.
Aurora releases statement on council travel budget
An Aurora spokesperson released this statement about the city’s travel budget allocations:
The Mayor and City Council members are allocated annual travel budgets to attend conferences — $11,000 for the Mayor, $7,000 for each council member – as outlined in Appendix C of the City Council Rules of Order and Procedure. Each council member has discretion to use their travel budget in accordance with the policy. City Council as a body sets the Rules of Order and Procedure.
Regarding Council Members Marcano and Murillo, they attended the International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference in Le Plessis-Robinson, France this year and met with city officials and the Chamber of Commerce from another Paris suburb. They submitted the attached travel records to the city in accordance with the Council travel policy. They previously attended the 2021 IMCL conference, which was held in the Indianapolis area.