In the midst of audit problems and reported financial misrepresentations, three Gila County employees will travel to Hawaii next month on the taxpayer's dime.
County Recorder Linda Haught Ortega, her chief deputy Nancy Ellsworth, and the Chief Deputy County Treasurer Debi Savage are scheduled to attend the mid-July National Association of Counties (NACO) conference in Honolulu.
Conference fees alone will cost almost $900.
Deputy County Manager Steve Besich said in addition to conference fees, the attendees will submit reimbursements for transportation, lodging and other costs upon their return.
Treasurer Priscilla Knuckey-Ralls will be in Hawaii at the same time, but not at the conference. She and her three sisters are taking their 82-year-old mother on vacation.
"I won't even be anywhere near the convention," Knuckey-Ralls said. "Why would I when I'm there with my family?"
Knuckey-Ralls said she normally attends NACO conferences though.
"Since I was first elected in 1980, there have been very few national county meetings I've missed," Knuckey-Ralls said.
She did not, however, attend the meeting last year in Phoenix, she explained. It was an election year and she was campaigning, she said.
Knuckey-Ralls said the conferences provide an opportunity for education and networking.
The attendees in Hawaii will cover topics such as making use of normally unusable land; creating alternatives for juvenile detention; promoting strong families; land use and storm runoff; planning in real time; smoke-free legislation; and transportation planning.
Ellsworth said she and Ortega will be attending an affiliate meeting of county recorders and election officials in Hawaii.
"These conferences are one of the first places I learned anything," Ellsworth said. "You get a chance to meet people from all over the country with more experience than you will ever get in school."
The meeting of recorders and election officials will include different topics, such as keeping, securing and preserving vital records.
She said that it is due to lobbying efforts by NACO and its affiliates that the federal government has made money available to Arizona to deal with forest health issues.