• New Meck. Co. board of commissioners to use taxpayer money for out-of-town retreat

    By: Mark Barber

    Updated:

    MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - Mecklenburg County's new board of commissioners just took office two days ago, and they are already being accused of wasting your money. 

    George Dunlap, the new chair of Mecklenburg County's new board of commissioners, says this year the county has new plans for its annual retreat.

    The board is planning its retreat at the Grandover Resort, a luxury hotel in Greensboro, for three days in January.

    [Questions surrounding $1,500 dinner not on Charlotte City Council retreat agenda]

    [Mecklenburg County leaders continue budget discussions at retreat]

    "Somebody said we will do some kumbaya moments,” Dunlap said. “We didn't want to look stupid on television, so we found a time to do that and, of course, that will not be televised."

    Commissioner Pat Cotham said this is the first time in eight years that the board is moving its retreat out of Charlotte.

    She worries it will be more expensive and less transparent.

    "Citizens won't be able to come on the sidelines and watch us, so I struggle with that,” Cotham said. “Also, if they want to do it in a hotel, which I don't agree with, we have magnificent hotels here, just to keep that money here to give some back."

    The board has been holding its retreats in Charlotte at the Central Piedmont Community Campus off Billy Graham Parkway.

    The board helps fund the college, so keeping the retreats here helped the board see how taxpayer dollars were being used.

    Moving the retreat from Charlotte to Greensboro next month will cost taxpayers an extra $13,000.

    County Manager Dena Diorio said the new board will livestream the retreat to address transparency concerns.

    She also said county commissioners won't eat lavish steak dinners like Channel 9 uncovered Charlotte City Council did at its retreat last year.

    Diorio said moving the county's retreat out of Charlotte will help commissioners eliminate distractions, but that decision that still comes at a cost. 

    “Is that a wise use of taxpayer money?” reporter Mark Barber asked.

    “I think it is because when they come back and are able to work effectively and efficiently together, the taxpayers win,” Diorio said.

    Diorio said it’s important to remember other local officials, including the school board and Charlotte City Council go out of town for their new-member retreats.

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