Evanston spent 27 percent more than predicted on each alderman it sent to the National League of Cities convention in Washington, D.C., last month.

Plans for the conference drew attention after the council was forced to cancel its March 12 regular meeting because a majority of aldermen planned to go to the conference.

In prior years only one to three members of the nine-member City Council had made the trip to the gathering of city officials from around the nation.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had predicted that the event would cost the city about $1,500 for each of the five aldermen who planned to attend.

A summary of expense reports for the event that Bobkiewicz provided Monday to Evanston Now shows the actual cost worked out to an average of $1,917 for each of the four aldermen who actually went to Washington.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, had to cancel out of the trip at the last minute because of a family emergency. That cost the city a $75 conference registration cancellation fee and $342.60 for an airline ticket that can be used for a later trip.

The highest expense reimbursement reported for the event was $2,360 for Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward.

But Burrus spent five days in Washington, while the other aldermen were only there for four. She also picked up most of the tab for meals the aldermen shared during the conference.

Expenses reported by the other aldermen on the trip didn’t differ by much. Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, spent $1,811. Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, spent $1,747 and Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, spent $1,751.

The aldermen defend the cost of the trip based on what they’re able to learn from conference sessions and the opportunity it provides to meet with federal officials about city issues.

The aldermen and city staff produced a nine-page report summarizing what they took away from conference sessions.  

Related story

Most aldermen will head to DC next month

Related documents

Conference report

Expense summary

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Even in the 21st century?

    Because everyone knows there's no such thing the "internet" or "conferenence calls" to share information.

    1. Even in the 21st century?

      You cannot place a conference call to take part in a national convention.  You either attend it and partake in the educational sessions and the networking opportunities with your peers or you stay home.  Networking and meeting people at such a conference who do what you do in cities around the U.S. not only benefits the Alderman and the City of Evanston during the short time of the conference but establishes contacts and relationships that they can call on in the future.

      On a second note, Evanston collects a pretty substantial hotel tax because professionals come to Evanston and conduct conferences and meetings here.  If everything was transacted as you suggest by the "internet" and "conference call" say bye bye to over $1.5 million in hotel tax revenue…..wanna increase taxes on yourself and other Evanstonians to replace that?

  2. Another example of interesting expense reporting.

    So the council members spent $11 per  meal in Washington on average?   If you believe this, you deserve the high taxes we continue to pay here.   Were is the City lobbyist expense report? 

    Also as someone on staff pointed out to me, they told me when they traveled, lobbyists and others provide them meals.  Interesting.  Real meal cost even if on the cheap side would approach $50 a day,  

     The council members "Summary Expense Report" is just that a summary, that Wally wants to show. 

    As I wrote when the story came out – the cost for this was much higher than Wally was projecting, Wally even now admits 27% more, but what are they hiding, with this summary?   Any one want to file a FOI to get all the expense reports, that is if the legal department does not write some silly opinion that they will not give them to you!

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