Jen Kelly, city editor
LORD Mayor John So and the city council splurged more than $400,000 on 34 overseas and 70 interstate junkets in the past year, new documents reveal.
Ratepayers also footed an $8374 bill to fly in three Play School presenters for the Moomba parade and three entertainers for the Queen’s Baton Relay in March.
Reports on the council’s website at the weekend show the 12-month bill up to March is almost $408,000, with further costs to be finalised.
Spin-doctor Hayden Cock, who is believed to earn more than $200,000, enjoyed his first ratepayer-funded trip less than four months into his job.
Mr Cock was appointed to improve council’s image with ratepayers after a series of scandals, several centred on Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer.
Mr Cock’s two-day trip to Sydney to attend a “managing reputation risk” conference in March cost ratepayers almost $3500 for air fares and the conference fee alone.
The corporate affairs director’s accommodation bill is yet to emerge.
The nine councillors including Cr So spent $87,465 on travel. City of Melbourne staff, mostly executives, spent the rest.
The bill includes:
$1060 for an arts project officer to go to a NSW conference on “future directions for the pipe organ in Australia”.
$2250 to send design and culture director Rob Adams to Hong Kong for two days to verify production of a material for council building CH2.
$3300 for a council landscape architect to fly to sister city Tianjin in China for a week to ensure project managers had correctly interpreted plans for the Melbourne Children’s Garden. Council is spending $180,000 on the garden.
$15,070 for marketing manager Scott Chapman to attend the World Swimming Championships in Montreal.
$16,163 for Mr Chapman to take a 19-day trip to London and Ireland.
Of the nine councillors, Cr Singer was the most expensive and extensive globetrotter.
His trips to Milan, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Perth and Canberra cost ratepayers $36,563.
The second biggest spender among the councillors was Cr So, whose $23,771 in travel included San Francisco, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Beijing, his birthplace Hong Kong, and Adelaide.
City of Melbourne chief executive officer David Pitchford defended the spending, saying travel was undertaken when necessary in order for council officers to fulfil their duties and when it was for the benefit for the city.