CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found some local politicians and top aides flying to Ireland, and taxpayers will pay for it.

They’ll be traveling Friday on the first flight of a new service from Cleveland to Ireland.

So, we investigated and gave the local leaders a chance to explain.

Elected officials and business leaders call it an economic development trip.

The first flight includes names you know.

We took a look at who’s going at taxpayer expense.

That includes Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne and a top aide, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and a top aide, along with the President of Cleveland City Council and the President of Cuyahoga County Council.

They’ll take a four-day trip. County records show the cost to be $3195 a person.

We asked County Executive Ronayne what taxpayers will get for their money.

He said, “What we are looking at is a business development trip.”
He added local businesses with ties to Ireland are also going.

He also said, “So, you see public and private sector travelers making these trips to stir up business opportunities in their communities, and I’m bullish on Cuyahoga County.”

We also went to the taxpayer watchdog group Common Cause.

Catherine Turcer said, “There’s good in travel, but it’s also important to think about the cost to taxpayers.”
She added, “It’s very hard when it’s this many government officials going, it’s hard to see it as an economic development trip.”
The I-Team reviewed the agenda for the trip. It shows business meetings and discussions.

It also shows time to travel to the capital of Ireland. The agenda says that includes a dinner reception at a pub. A pub that has helped a non-profit group in Cleveland.
We asked County Council President Pernel Jones, “Why do you find it necessary to take 6 people paid by tax dollars to go on this trip?”  

He said, “We 6 are the ones who help drive and improve economic competitiveness of this region.”

Jones also defends the investment, saying, “Well, we created this flight just to create access. We’re going there to partner.”

Meantime, we also asked the County Executive why he needs to take a top aide. Chris Ronayne said, “One of the things is follow-up. Making sure we have team members that are in touch with team members of the Irish delegation.” Ronayne says the group will also try to sell the folks in Ireland on coming to NE Ohio just to visit. For instance, coming to see the Rock Hall and Cedar Point.

The I-Team will follow up, too. Checking the payoff from your money sending local leaders overseas.