Aurora, CO

Aurora council members defeat mayor's travel proposal

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) The Aurora City Council voted down a resolution by the mayor Monday that would have required council approval for international travel by council members at taxpayers' expense.

Council members Dustin Zvonek, Angela Lawson, Danielle Jurinsky and Mayor Pro Tem Francoise Bergan, voted for Mayor Mike Coffman's proposal.

Coffman argued Aurora taxpayers shouldn't pay for council members to attend lavish international destinations. Last month, councilmembers Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo traveled to Paris for a conference.

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.

On Monday, Coffman learned councilmember Curtis Gardner flew to Mexico last week for a city conference with the Denver Downtown Partnership. Gardner said he learned about how successful transit systems operate.

Although Gardner was the only person at the conference from Aurora, most of the Denver City Council also attended the conference in Mexico last week. The council did not have a quorum to meet.

Mayor shocked by Mexico trip

Coffman said the Paris conference wasn't an appropriate use of taxpayer money and was shocked to learn about Gardner's Mexico trip. Hoffman has discussed banning international travel for several weeks.

Coffman traveled to El Salvador last year at the city's expense. But he said city management requested that trip. The consulate of El Salvador has an Aurora office.

Marcano called the mayor's travel proposal "political showmanship." Murillo agreed. She said the El Salvador trip gave her the idea international travel is acceptable.

Policy could lead to 'trading votes'

Murillo said the travel policy could lead council members to "trading votes" to go on their trips. Bergan said trading votes is illegal and should never occur. But Murillo said, it sometimes does.

Council members argued location shouldn't determine conference merits. Several council members said a trip to Washington D.C. cost council members about the same as Marcano's Paris trip.

Councilmember Alison Coombs council members should be able to decide whether a conference advances city strategic plan objectives.

Murillo accused Coffman of making an issue of the Paris trip because she and Marcano are Latino. She said city officials ignored previous international trips by council members.

Policy stacked against Democrats

Gardner believes council members should be required to give reports after conferences to share what they learn.

Democrat council members said the proposed ordinance would put them at a disadvantage cause the new rule would have required a majority of council members to approve international travel. The council is majority Republican and often votes as a block.

The policy also specified that the Office of International and Immigrant Affairs or Aurora's Sister Cities International program must request the trip.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career at local newspapers. Today, I report on Denver and Aurora city halls for NewsBreak. Prior to joining NewsBreak, I worked several years as a health reporter and branded content writer in the healthcare space. I also worked many years as a news editor and city editor. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver.

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