A District agency spent $6,000 for a retreat for 40 of its employes last Friday and Saturday, including about $1,375 to put them up overnight in a luxury hotel. The meeting was at the Shoreham Hotel, near Connecticut and Calvert streets NW, and most of the employes live in the District.
Although the last scheduled program activity on Friday was a one-hour party that ended at 7 p.m., Kwasi Holman, director of the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development, which sponsored the retreat, said it was necessary for the participants to spend the night.
"We stayed overnight there because we had an early morning session and because we needed an opportunity to socialize," said Holman. "The mayor has encouraged us to spend time together to discuss matters and to socialize. We were trying to keep the money in the city."
But some city officials complained that the decision was a waste of District funds, particularly in light of the District's residency law requiring government employes to live in the city.
"There is no reason to stay overnight unless you're going to meet all night long," said D.C. City Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee. "You can retreat in one of the city's buildings. Forty people can retreat anywhere -- in a conference room."
Council Chairman David A. Clarke said the council had never held an overnight retreat in the city and that the council's two out-of-town retreats were financed by grants.
"Even before I ever thought of spending $6,000, I and most of the members would be afraid of just the kind of story that you are writing," Clarke told a reporter.
Mayor Marion Barry has held retreats (he calls them "advances") for high-ranking city officials out of the city. However, Holman said it was felt it would be out of character for his office, which promotes local enterprise, to take its business to the suburbs.
"We wrestled with the idea of whether we wanted to do it in the city or outside," said Holman. "A lot of people wanted to go outside the city. The money was roughly comparable and we thought it would be better to spend the money here."
Rates at the Shoreham, at 2500 Calvert St. NW, range from $140 to $190 a night for a single room and from $160 to $210 a night for a double room. Holaman said his office was given a $55-a-night government rate for the 25 rooms used for the retreat.
During the retreat, TRG Inc., a District consulting firm, conducted six group sessions at a cost of nearly $3,000, according to Holman. The sessions centered on improving working relationships within the office, providing employes with a historical view of the District and exploring the reasons for promoting economic development projects.
Holman said that after the one-hour party Friday evening, "There may have been individual parties in rooms." After checking with some of the participants, Holman later told a reporter that some of his employes held informal discussions about economic development projects as late as 10 to 11 p.m.
Annette Samuels, the mayor's press secretary, said that many city agencies hold advances and that each agency decides where and when to hold them.
Holman said he doubts that future agency advances will be held here.
"In retrospect," he said, "I probably will not hold overnight advances any more because of [pause] because of the kind of pause . Never mind."