D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today called his week-long vacation in Dubai last week a "personal trip" but acknowledged that the United Arab Emirates government paid for his expenses.
Fenty (D) said he paid for his wife and twin sons to come with him and no public funds were used. He declined to be specific when asked why the UAE paid his way and why the country invited him.
He said he spent time sight-seeing, meeting with some government officials to talk about "very general" topics, such as economic development and attending a professional women's tennis tournament that drew controversy when the UAE refused to grant Israeli player Shahar Peer a passport.
"I did know one Israeli was banned," Fenty said when asked about the trip by reporters during an appearance in Southwest, where he provided an update on new police facilities. "It's a very complicated international diplomatic situation. Concerns were raised. After Venus Williams won, she raised the issue and I think she talked for most people when she said she would have preferred if everyone was allowed to play. But by the end they seemed to have resolved the matter in that they were going to allow an Israeli to play in the men's tournament."
Fenty had not announced his trip publicly until he returned Sunday. During his tenure as a D.C. Council member, Fenty had chastised former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) for taking several trips abroad each year, saying a mayor must remain in town to be accessible to residents.
But over the past year, Fenty has increased his out-of-town travel. He made a half-dozen appearances for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, stumping and rallying support in Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts and elsewhere. In January 2007, Fenty attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, as a guest of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. And the mayor has traveled to New York several times, including to compete in a triathlon last summer and attend a recent fundraiser for his re-election campaign hosted by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (D).
Asked why he went to Dubai, Fenty replied: "I always wanted to go. I did set up some meetings. They were very general. ... It was a fantastic city, very cosmopolitan like D.C. I even met a few people there who were from Washington."
Fenty met with was Rashid Mubarak Al Hajiri, the chairman of the Dept of Municipal Affairs for Abu Dhabi.
"We talked about everything from how's the family to how we do our jobs, tips and advice on how to do things. It was high level, 30,000-feet stuff," Fenty said. "One example was that he had been in charge of human resources at one point so he was talking about how you ensure you hire good people. The state of Dubai is known for economic development and for the reform of government. He had been here in Washington for something like 14 years so he knows the city well. He spoke of the great progress we've made here -- how you couldn't get a permit until Anthony Williams became mayor."