Phoenix Councilwoman Peggy Neely Spent Six Nights in Hawaii on Junket to Woo Kid Soccer Tourney to Phoenix that Didn't Need Wooing

Categories: Election 2011
moana surfrider.JPG
www.moana-surfrider.com
Councilwoman Peggy Neely stayed in a sweet suite in this oceanside Westin resort.
The Fiesta Bowl hasn't been the only organization handing out goodies to public officials.

The Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau paid for Phoenix Councilwoman and mayoral wannabe Peggy Neely to fly to Hawaii on a six-night, seven-day junket to woo a youth soccer tournament that didn't need wooing.

New Times is reviewing Phoenix travel records for Neely, Councilman Claude Mattox and former Councilman Greg Stanton. Stanton and Mattox already have declared their candidacies for Phoenix mayor. Neely still is exploring the possibility of running in the August 30 election.

Travel logs show that the Convention and Visitors Bureau picked up the tab for Neely to fly to Hawaii from June 14 to June 20, 2008. She and a bureau member were trying to recruit a U.S. Youth Soccer regional tournament -- at the same time the city was sliding into a $67 million budget deficit.



Thumbnail image for neely peggy small.jpg
Peggy Neely is considering a run for mayor.

​Neely defended the trip, saying it resulted in Phoenix landing the 2012 U.S. Youth Soccer regional tournament. She says it means 4,000 hotel room nights for each day of the week-long tournament.

"That's huge," she tells New Times. "We were successful. It was just one of those things that happened to be in Hawaii that year. We believe it was the best thing to do."

Hard to imagine that Phoenix wouldn't attract soccer tournaments, given that voters spent nearly $25 million to build the Reach 11 Sports Complex. The 77-acre soccer facility, with 20 lighted soccer fields and 2,200 parking spaces, are a selling point on their own.

Moreover, Tom Mendoth, U.S. Youth Soccer Region IV Tournament coordinator, says political courting has nothing to do with a city's landing the next regional tournament.

Mendoth says it isn't common for elected officials to go to tournaments, as Neely did in 2008, to sell their cities to coaches or staff members. He recalls seeing Neely and a representative from the Convention and Visitors Bureau set up a booth on the soccer field and hand out water bottles.

"There's no political aspect to this at all," he said, adding that bids to become a tournament site are submitted by potential host cities and a presentation is made to the U.S. Youth Soccer board of directors.

Mendoth says demographics, hotel availability and safety, the quality facilities, and the proximity to medical attention play a role in his organization's deciding where the next tournament lands.

Even so, Neely jetted off on the nearly $4,000 trip just months after Phoenix officials announced that a $67 million budget shortfall was going to force them to severely slash city services, such as public pools, community centers, and senior centers.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau shelled out $1,181.15, which covered most of Neely's $1,522.55 plane ticket. The remaining $2,768.45 tab for the trip was picked up by taxpayers.

It isn't clear how much money was spent, or who shelled it out, for Neely's bureau companion to take the trip.

New Times requested records from the organization on April 1 to determine how many other times it has paid for public officials' travel or entertainment.

A Visitors Bureau spokesman said it is working on the request.

Neely, a member of the Visitors Bureau board of directors, wrote in an April 14, 2008 memo to former City Manager Frank Fairbanks that it was "important to be in attendance for the entire tournament."

She told him that she needed to attend as many games as possible to meet with coaches, officials, and staff. Mendoth, who's been involved with youth soccer for 20 years, says coaches and staffers don't make decisions about the tournament sites.

Neely enjoyed posh accommodations at the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort on Waikiki Beach.

A resort official told New Times that Neely stayed in a Banyan Ocean suite, a room that presently is going for $2,800 a night. But Eric Berger, the resort's general manager, apparently gave Neely a special rate of $220 a night.

New Times left a message for Berger to see if he could shed light on the reason for the steep discount, but he hasn't gotten back to us.

It's worth noting that there is a Westin resort -- Westin Kierland -- in Neely's council district, and she has hosted many events there, from election victory parties to fundraisers for her anticipated bid for mayor.

Neely says she got her room rate by going through the Visitors Bureau -- not a perk we imagine is available for the average traveler.

"All I did was go to the Convention and Visitors Bureau...I didn't ask for anything other than a room," she says. "I had nothing to do with the room where I stayed."

During her stay in Honolulu, Neely enjoyed some pricey meals -- $46 King Crab legs, a single dinner with a tab of $68.42 after tax and tip. Another dinner, this one at the Cheesecake Factory, ended up at $46.63.

She also dined on a $17 turkey sandwich, a $16 breakfast wrap, and $14 waffles in the hotel.

Time has faded the information on some of the receipts, but we did find a few calls for room service, which tacks on a $5 delivery charge and a 17 percent service charge to bills.

As Neely continues exploring a run for mayor, her committee sent out an e-mail on April 7 with this statement:

"As city leaders, we must be accountable with [public] tax dollars. We must publicly weigh the benefits of programs and initiatives to ensure that public funds are spent wisely," she writes. "I will approach this budget with the same fiscal responsibility as the ones I have faced in the past and will continue to press a transparent and accountable process."

Neely tells New Times that she did her best to keep costs to a minimum, and even came home from the trip a day early.


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17 comments
linbo4
linbo4

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Coz
Coz

now I'm sure she will get elected, Arizona voters only vote for the corrupt ones.

Arizona Baby
Arizona Baby

As a professional in the hospitality and tourism industry I applaud Neely's efforts for seeking to bring revenue to the valley during the slow tourism season. This soccer tournament will bring roughly 4,000 room nights to the valley during the summer months. An average rate in the valley for summer months would be around $125. So essentially Neely brought $500,000 just in hotel rooms. These families will also spend money on transportation, food, and shopping. We should be thanking her for digging into one of the newest market segments for tourism, sports.

This being said, this soccer tournament is very prestigious. It will host the best teams from each of the western states for 8 age groups. Phoenix has been trying to host this tournament for years, however, we have either not had a big enough facility or tournament officials claimed it was too hot. Funny that they would host the tournament in Las Vegas at the same time of year. So for the tournament coordinator to say that this was not political is a bunch of bull. We all know that almost anything in life is political. If you want something you must go fight for it!

Finally, as far as the suite in Hawaii goes... Hotels try to take care of all of their guests. If you have not seen a suite upgrade in your lifetime then either it hasn't been your time yet, you have never asked for one, or you are an asshole to the front desk agents and they will put you in the shittiest room possible. It is so easy to upgrade someone to a suite at a hotel, and I laugh that Ms. Alonzo would even put the rack rate on there. Rarely do hotels charge their rack rate, they usually comp the suites for group contacts and upgrade loyalty members to them.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Do you happen to know if Peggy was actually influential in any decision to move the tournament from Las Vegas to Phoenix? That seems to be the salient issue behind this expenditure.... Or are you just guessing?

Usgovfail
Usgovfail

And how much money has barack obama/barry soeotor spent on vacations in the last two years while helping to kill America? I'd bet that its somewhere in the billions. Fuck you phoenicnewtimes. Kill yourselves, all of you. The world will be a better place without you lying spinsters free to poison minds.

SeeForYourself
SeeForYourself

If I were to call you a moron, I would be insulting all morons, so I'll just call you a world-class piece of idiot dung.

Val
Val

Well, we know who I'm not voting for.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Why did Neely need to go to Hawaii? Unless she learned from Hendershott that the vacations he took to Honduras and China were taxpayer funded and served absolutely no use other than to waste valuable taxpayer money in a tight economy.....

Sounds like Neely went to Waikiki Beach for a little R&R, not to make Phoenix better. I suspect she did not disclose this on her financial disclosure forms, just as Pearce didn't disclose the $83,000 worth of trips he took on the Fiesta Bowl's dime.....

Bcurly
Bcurly

Who gives a fuck. Id like to see the flming Birds lunch bill on a daily basis, now that fucker can chow down.

Ross
Ross

$1,522 for a plane ticket? Must have included a stopover in Sydney.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Um, Sydney is in Australia, Ross.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

No, Ross. That's about the normal for first class round trip on Hawaiian from Phoenix to Oahu. My upcoming trip to Adelaide on Qantas (Business Economy) from LAX through Sydney (going) and Melbourne (returning) was a bit over $3200.

XSoldier
XSoldier

My trip to Boston to see my family, car included, was $467 for 8 days. I also booked a $112 hotel room in Phoenix so that I can just get up and go to Sky Harbor. So, all tell, I spent about $600 for a Thanksgiving day vacation.

RogelioMartinezo
RogelioMartinezo

My family and I went to Hawai'i in February. Six nights and our car ran $900. We booked a special on Hawai'ian Airlines and our tickets were under $350 round trip.

Hurry up and become Mayor, Peggy, so I can run for your seat and upgrade my next vacation.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

She would make a fine mayor. She's already an expert on fraudulent political behavior and is possibly a bad liar. All the qualifications are there. Congratulations Mayor Neely.

anwhitehead
anwhitehead

This looks so bad on so many levels. Not only is Neely jetting off to Hawaii on a trip financed, in part, by taxpayer money, she's doing it in a situation where there is apparently no benefit to be gained by the City. In addition, she gets an amazing discount of more than $2000/night on her ocean suite at The Westin. (Why is it not surprising that the hotel chain where Neely stayed has a prominent property in her district?) If this is her idea of spending public funds wisely as a City Council member, just imagine what she will do if she becomes Mayor.

Catopines1
Catopines1

Despot... i don't think I have anything else to say about that.

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