9OYS Continuing Coverage: Mayor explains expensive conference

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9OYS Continuing Coverage: Mayor explains expensive conference

CREATED May 31, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - One council member's alleged behavior at a recent business conference is opening up questions about the event itself.  The trip hosted by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO) cost taxpayers at least $4 thousand according to city officials.  9 On Your Side went to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild to find out more.

"It's really unfortunate that the conduct of one person may have overshadowed what occurred on that trip and I've spoken with Joe Snell who is the head of TREO and he's preparing a full report on the trip of the benefits of the trip," said Rothschild.  He expects that report by June 12.

Rothschild didn't attend the trip to San Diego for the conference, but he is on the board for TREO.  It's a public-private partnership to bring new business development to Tucson.  Nearly 50 percent of their funding comes from city and county money according to Rothschild.  TREO started in 2005, and the mayor says they're still in transition to build their private investors and reduce that public funding.

9 On Your Side asked TREO about trip expenses, which included a stay at San Diego's five-star Lodge at Torrey Pines.  They replied with a statement saying, in part:

"TREO's Leadership Exchange Trips are conducted by invitation only. Participants pay $2,000 all inclusive. Eight public officials were granted scholarships for the trip. Scholarships are privately funded. The majority of the participants were private business leaders."

9 On Your Side also asked about the reasons for the conference, and the need to hold it in San Diego.  TREO and Rothschild said the conference focused on the bio-tech industry and Mexican business relations.

"The idea is to go talk to people who have had success.  What did you to to make that success and hopefully bring those ideas back," said Rothschild.

When asked if it was worth it, he replied, "I want to wait and see the entire report.  From what I've heard preliminarily, yes.  You can't be penny-wise and pound foolish.  If my folks came back with three great ideas that we can implement and turn four thousand dollars into four million dollars, yea, it would be worth it."

A TREO spokesperson also explained their reasons for picking that particular resort for the event.  Spokesperson Laura Shaw told 9 On Your Side they received a significant discount, and it is located in the heart of San Diego's bio-tech industry.

To view TREO's full statement or the conference agenda, see "related documents."