Raleigh City Council retreat under fire

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The City Council retreat is under fire for spending thousands of taxpayer dollars (WTVD)

The Raleigh City Council will be spending the next few days in Charlotte at a budgeted cost of $31,000.

The city leaders left Wednesday for their annual retreat, paid for, of course, by taxpayers.

That's why people are so upset about them spending nearly $11,000 on lodging and more than $7,000 on food, and they are not spending locally.

Eight city council members and 12 staffers boarded an Amtrak train in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, headed to Charlotte for the annual team building retreat. ABC11's Anna Laurel caught up with Mayor Nancy MacFarlane before she left.

"We're going to be working hard together for the next two years, and this is going to put us off to a great start," MacFarlane said.

The trip is not sitting well with tax-paying voters, and they are taking to social media to express their frustrations.

"I feel it would be reasonable and appropriate that Raleigh leaders expend/invest retreat costs in the local businesses of Raleigh," Facebook user Shelle DeTurk wrote on newly elected Councilman David Cox's Facebook page.

MacFarlane explained why the $10,690 the city is estimated to spend on two nights at the Charlotte Center City Hilton, a four-star hotel, is justified.

"We looked at different hotel options, and what we needed is meeting space," MacFarlane said. "We wanted to be downtown and we are going to be looking at their bus station and some of their transportation things they have done. If we can get more done, if we can have access to more things, if we can gather more information, that helps us in the long run, then we're staying where we need to be."

Meal expenses, expected to cost nearly $7,300, are also under fire.

"Must be nice to vacation on someone else's dime," said Facebook user Maria Dibi.

The mayor insists this trip is the city's business.

"A lot of it revolves the strategic plan," MacFarlane explained. "This retreat, we'll be talking a lot about implementation, exactly what do we need to do. We know the things we want to accomplish, what are some of the actual projects and measurables to accomplish these goals. It really is important to have that time, develop the relationship, focus."

The funds for the trip comes from travel, training, and organizational development sections of the budget. Wake County commissioners also have a retreat coming up in February. Their spokesperson told ABC11 that retreat typically costs less than $5,000.

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