By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Aurora, Colo.) At its study session Monday, Aurora City Council advanced a proposal by Mayor Mike Coffman to require council members to get permission from six council members and the mayor for international travel at taxpayers' expense.
The policy also specifies that either the Office of International and Immigrant Affairs or Aurora's Sister Cities International program must request the trip.
The change effectively bans travel to municipal conferences held abroad, like a trip by Councilmembers Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo. The pair jetted to Paris to attend the International Making Cities Livable conference.
When Mayor Mike Coffman learned of the trip, which city staff approved, he made a fiery Facebook post.
"Councilmembers Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo just returned from a trip to Paris that will be paid for by the taxpayers of Aurora," Coffman posted. "How did this happen? Apparently, they found a conference in Paris, signed up for it, and are using the taxpayers of Aurora to pay for it."
He called the trip to one of the world's most lavish places "an insult to the hardworking taxpayers of this city."
Councilmembers Marcano, Murillo, Alison Coombs and Ruben Medina opposed moving the mayor’s travel proposal forward.
Murillo, Marcano defend trip
Murillo and Marcano said they learned a lot in Paris. "I think it was a really successful trip learning about best practices in other communities," Murillo said.
Marcano and Murillo gave presentations about their trip at the Aurora Municipal Center on June 1 to discuss what they learned. City Council members receive a $7,000 annual travel budget they can use as they wish.
Taxpayers paid for Coffman's international trip to Aurora's sister city in El Salvador. But Coffman said the city requested that trip. He noted the consulate of El Salvador has a presence in Aurora.
"Aurora Sister Cities International CEO Karlyn Shorb is honored to join Mayor Mike Coffman, Aurora City Council members Alison Coombs and Juan Marcano, the City of Aurora Office of International Affairs, and a number of business and nonprofit leaders on a 4-day mission to El Salvador," the sister cities group posted on its website last year.
Marcano called the mayor’s travel proposal “political showmanship.” Murillo agreed. She said the trip to El Salvador gave her the idea international travel is acceptable.
Mexico trip cancels Denver council meeting
Meantime, Denver City Council could not meet Monday because most members were attending a cities conference in Mexico, Council President Stacie Gilmore announced after roll call. The only members present were Gilmore, Jamie Torres, Paul Kashmann, Candi CdeBaca and Debbie Ortega.
Jurinsky wants to talk back
Also, Monday, Aurora Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky discussed legislation that would allow council members to respond to remarks made during the public comment period.
"Council shall be given opportunity to address staff to exchange contact information when the speaker is at the podium," the new rules read, "and Council may clarify statements related to any speaker's comments at the conclusion of Public Invited to be Heard but shall not enter into debate with the speakers."
“My concern is that we basically are setting up a situation where council gets the last word,” Marcano said. Coombs agreed.
Councilmember Steve Sundberg said it is important council members do not appear argumentative.
The council advanced the international travel and public comment measures to a future council meeting for a formal vote. That likely will be in two weeks.