Councilman Wayne Wilson and Councilwoman Carol Neff flew to Sioux Falls, S.D. on Wednesday and are expected to return late today. Sioux Falls is north of Vermillion, S.D. where Jeffery Pederson, a candidate for the city manager's post, works.
An itinerary notice from Kent Travel detailing the council member's travel plans was released Thursday after city officials received a public records request from the Record-Courier.
The requests, received Wednesday by Interim City Manager William Lillich, Mayor Jerry Fiala and Councilman Robert Felton, requested billing statements for any travel expenses for council members visiting candidates which were funded by taxpayer dollars.
An employee at the Comfort Inn in Vermillion confirmed that Wilson and Neff are staying there, but it is not known who is picking up the hotel bill.
Lewis Steinbrecher, city manager of Albion, Mich., and Ron Singel, city manager of Old Town, Maine, also have been named top candidates for the city manager's position.
Council members plan to visit one other candidate's city. Reports that other council members have made plans to visit Albion could not be confirmed.
Lillich said the purchase order for the first trip came through his office "in the normal course of the approval process."
The statement shows the city is paying $666 for Wilson and Neff to fly to South Dakota. The itinerary, which was attached to the purchase order, shows they left Cleveland Hopkins airport Wednesday evening and stopped in Minneapolis before flying to Sioux Falls, where a car was reserved for Wilson.
They are expected to arrive back at Cleveland around midnight.
Although Lillich's office had not received other billing statements as of Thursday afternoon, he noted it is not unusual for officials who are traveling on city business to pay their expenses and be reimbursed later.
Felton said he was surprised to hear that council members had decided to travel this week. He said no council member consulted him on travel plans and he expected that if travel was going to take place, it would happen next week.
"I don't know how anyone can leave this week," he said, adding that
council members are expected to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for
the Kent State University Student Recreation and Wellness Center, set
for this afternoon, KSU's football home opener on Saturday, and the
FredFest music festival on Sunday.