MUA Convention Spending Comes Under Questioning

PATERSON, NJ – The Municipal Utilities Authority on Monday voted to spend as much as $1,800 on hotel bills for the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City next month.

The expenditure came under questioning from some commissioners.

"A hotel stay for three nights is 1,800 dollars?"  asked new commissioner Janet McDaniel. “That would be $600 a night,’’ she added.

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Commissioner Charles Pettiford said that he believed city employees attending the same conference were getting a better deal on their rooms. "I think employees are paying $125," Pettiford said.

In fact, the city is picking up the tab for municipal officials and employees to stay just one night at the convention and at maximum of $85 for that night. Those restrictions result from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which has partial control over city spending under an agreement that provided Paterson with $22 million in state aid last year.

But utilities authority chairman Erik Lowe pointed out that the autonomous agency is not bound by the requirements of that agreement. As a result, the MUA will be paying for as many as three nights at the Borgata hotel and casino and has not imposed a limit on the cost of the rooms.

Lowe said the $1,800 was based on an estimate. “The cost will probably be lower,’’ he said.                          

In past years, Lowe said, the MUA’s accommodations had been handled through the city clerk’s office and the utilities authority simply reimbursed the city.

So far, Lowe said he is only one of the four commissioners who will definitely be going to the convention on the MUA’s tab. Lowe said he will be checking with his colleagues this week to see if additional reservations need to be made.

Lowe said he would pay for his own registration at the convention as well as for his own meals.

"We don't want to have a tab for other things," said McDaniel.

Lowe said it was important for him to attend the convention in Atlantic City to meet with the leaders of other utilities authorities and various vendors that might do business with the agency.

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