MANKATO — Three Mankato councilors will make a city-funded trip to Europe — including one who will pay her own way — later this month to help sister city Ungheni, Moldova, celebrate its 550th anniversary.
City Council President Mike Laven and Councilwoman Tamra Rovney will attend at a total city cost of $2,800, for airfare. Councilwoman Karen Foreman will also attend, though she will pay her own plane ticket.
Their host city will pay for their food, accommodations and transportation.
Mankato and Ungheni became sister cities about a year ago on the initiative of Ungheni resident Liliana Tincu, who interned at the city of Mankato during her graduate studies at Minnesota State University.
The mayor of Ungheni, population 32,700, invited a Mankato delegation to visit during the city’s anniversary celebration from Aug. 31 through Sept. 2.
Laven said a visit is the natural next step in the sister city relationship. He said the trip could produce unexpected benefits. For example, he said, perhaps the delegation could encourage more Ungheni students to attend MSU.
He also said the country’s biggest exports are rugs, textiles, ceramics and wine. Perhaps there is wine expertise that could help Mankato-area vineyards, he said.
“I’d love to say I’m coming back with a business and 20 new jobs,” he said, adding that just wasn’t likely to happen.
The Mankato council discussed the trip during a July 23 work session. Though they hadn’t decided at that time who would attend, “we felt sending two made the most sense,” Laven said Friday.
The next day, July 24, City Manager Pat Hentges sent an email to Ungheni City Hall saying the mayor had identified a delegation of “four to five officials.”
Council members then discussed over email who should go.
Councilman Jack Considine wrote that because Mayor Eric Anderson was invited but could not attend, Laven should go because the council president is the mayor’s replacement according to the city charter.
And given that Councilman Mark Frost said he’d pay his own way, Considine suggested that anyone else who wanted to go should “cut cards or draw straws.”
Rovney chimed in next, saying she wanted to be considered for the trip.
“As I have not spent any council money for trips or training I would also hope the rest of the council would take that into consideration when deciding who should/could go,” she wrote.
In 2011, Rovney was the only council member to spend no city money on training and travel. As a whole, the council spent $13,642.36 on training and travel last year.
Considine preferred the choice be random.
He wrote: “I think each of us could put forth reasons why we believe we should be the one to go. Let’s just cut cards or draw straws and decide. The city will be well represented by whichever person is selected.”
Frost wrote a reply saying he thought the council had decided that if anyone beyond Hentges and Anderson wanted to go, they would pay their own way.
“If there is any expectation of ever getting some budgetary control of city expenses we need to show some leadership in these issues,” he wrote. Frost included The Free Press in the recipients of that email.
It’s not clear how Rovney and Laven were chosen to go.