The Bernalillo County Commission on Tuesday evening voted to send Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins to an April trade conference in Singapore.
But the approval wasn’t unanimous.
Commission Chairman Steven Michael Quezada said no – the lone dissenting vote among the five – saying the media would portray him as a “criminal” if he made such a trip.
“I’m going to stand against the trip because of what the media would do,” Quezada said. “If I do this, I’m a criminal and I’m wasting taxpayer money, and that’s what the media would put out.”
Quezada made reference to the coverage received regarding a trip former county Commissioner Art De La Cruz took to Cannes, France – the resort town famous for its film festival – for a real estate conference in 2016. That trip cost the county $20,000.
Hart Stebbins’ trip is expected to cost the county about $3,500, though Hart Stebbins said she’s likely to spend less. She said, at one point in her life, she lived in Southeast Asia and has contacts in the area she could introduce to Bernalillo County business owners.
The International Trade Fair for Wine and Spirits is the largest such trade fair in Asia, according to its website.
The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Trade Alliance recommended Hart Stebbins join a collection of people who will be showcasing New Mexico wines, coffee and food to the international audience, said County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.
She also said similar trips by commissioners are common. Commissioner Wayne Johnson, for example, has traveled to Israel, which cost the county $5,000. Commissioner Lonnie Talbert took a trip to Brazil in 2014 for $6,000 and Hart Stebbins traveled to Taiwan in 2013 for $3,000, according to Journal archives.
“We want (Bernalillo County) to be known internationally,” Johnson said. “We’ve been sitting around waiting for them to come. That approach doesn’t work.”