Commissioner gets free ride to Hawaii conference

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

While the Boone County Commission has budgeted more than $7,000 to send county employees to a conference in Hawaii next month, they won’t spend a dime of it.

Only Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller will attend the annual conference of the National Association of Counties in Honolulu. Because Miller is a past president of NACo, the association covers all her expenses.

The site of the NACo conference and the expense of traveling to it have become the subject of national news reports as county officials in several states — including Illinois and Tennesee — decided not to attend.

Miller said county employees will attend different conferences this year that address specific issues of concern to the county, such as transitioning to electronic voting.

“We don’t go to conferences just to go to conferences,” she said. “It is one thing the county has been very good at.”

In each of the past five years, the county has spent an average of $5,500 to send three or more county employees to NACo conferences in places such as Phoenix and St. Louis. This represents the largest part of the county’s annual budget of $10,000 to $15,000 for conferences.

NACo spokesman Tom Goodman said he expects between 3,000 and 4,000 county representatives — about the same number as any other year — will attend the conference.

“It’s an educational experience,” he said. “County officials can go to the conference and understand better issues that are affecting counties across the country.”

NACo, formed in 1935, lobbies for county interests and acts as a liaison between county and other levels of government.

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