Issue over mayor’s travel costs is frivolous |

Issue over mayor’s travel costs is frivolous

What some people may be calling a “sham” or “Eurogate,” we see as much ado about nothing.

The reference is to Mayor Mick Ireland’s recent submission of a little more than $2,400 in receipts to the city for a portion of the costs he incurred during a two-week summer trip in Europe, where he mixed pleasure with a fair amount of business.

Ireland embarked on the trip in late June and returned in early July, shortly after being sworn in to a third and final two-year term. In May, he was re-elected after garnering slightly more than 50 percent of the vote, thus avoiding a runoff with his closest challenger.

Before the trip – which involved visiting cities in Germany, Switzerland and France that are participants in Aspen’s Sister Cities program, as well as potential sister cities in Italy – Ireland talked of his plans with The Aspen Times. From the beginning, he intended to make his vacation a quasi-business trip, touting the city’s attributes both as a ski resort and a summer destination. He also planned to study some of the land-use concepts in the places he visited, all of which are resort towns.

Even more specifically, he said he planned to promote the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the professional bicycle race whose second stage rolled into Aspen on Aug. 24. Ireland said he was planning to pay for the lion’s share of his trip, which he took with a friend, but said he would ask the city’s Sister Cities program to pick up a small share of the tab to cover the cost of the business he would do on behalf of the city and the community.

This is a system that’s practiced, in various ways, in other municipalities across the country. It’s the cost of doing business and a marketing tool that can pay big dividends in the future. There shouldn’t be a need for “pre-approval” of travel plans, as some critics have charged, unless the bill is likely to be hefty. In this case, the receipts he turned in to the city are a pittance compared with the ground he covered in representing Aspen.

We believe $2,400 is a small price to pay for the goodwill generated between Aspen and the European cities Ireland visited, and the information he carried back across the Atlantic. But our mayor seems to attract controversy with nearly every comment and action; the fact that other local media have chosen to play up the story and his longtime critics seized an opportunity to accuse him of unethical behavior comes as no surprise.

Ireland by no means is a perfect mayor; but he’s blameless in this instance. We’d prefer to let the matter fall by the wayside and let the city’s process of checks and balances determine whether the expenditures were valid.

Mick Ireland is a seasoned government servant who has successfully weathered such petty controversies in the past. Still, you almost have to feel sorry for a man who continually is (falsely) accused of notorious deeds and who for more than four years has had wolves nipping at his heels. Whatever his flaws (the last time we checked, he was human), he’s done a lot of good work on behalf of the community and deserves better.

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