A February leadership conference at an Ohio state park lodge cost the state's taxpayers about $23,000, Watchdog10's Paul Aker reported on Monday.
About 130 Ohio Department of Transportation employees spent tax dollars to attend the overnight conference at Mohican State Park, in Loudonville, a public-owned lodge that is operated by a private company.
The company was paid to rent the rooms to ODOT, Aker reported.
The bills started piling up the moment ODOT workers drove to the Ashland County lodge. Some came from as far away as Ross and Washington counties.
The price of gas came to $350. All the rooms at the lodge came to nearly $8,000. The speaker who came to the conference from Carmel, Ind., sent a bill to ODOT for $3,100. Four meals were served at a cost of $11,500.
"We were careful with money when I arrived at ODOT," said Jim Beasley, the former ODOT director under Gov. Ted Strickland's administration.
Beasley said that he eliminated expensive overnight conferences during his time at ODOT.
While current ODOT director Jerry Wray has discussed trimming the budge and even suggested that the state privatize some roads, he is more than willing to spend in a way Beasley was not, Aker reported.
Wray, who approved the Mohican outing, reversed course on a cost-cutting policy that a previous administration put in place, Aker reported.
According to an ODOT statement, the conference saved the money in the long run.
"ODOT has saved more than $33.5 million in staff reductions," the statement read. "The genesis of these savings ideas was the strategic planning session held at the retreat."
More than just money, Beasley said that refusing overnight retreats sends a message.
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