County supervisors today unanimously accepted a $12,600 gift from the San Diego World Trade Center to send Supervisor Ron Roberts on a 20-day trade mission to China and Vietnam.

The gift will cover Roberts’ transportation, lodging and meals while in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Lani Lutar, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, urged supervisors to reject the gift.

“If the World Trade Center can afford to give the county $12,600 for an international trade mission,” Lutar said, “they should also be able to pay for their operations without a subsidy from county taxpayers.”

The trade center has previously paid to send supervisors on five trade missions to Asia. Roberts has been the beneficiary of each of those gifts — as well as a staunch financial backer of the trade group. Since 2001, Roberts has directed at least $854,000 in taxpayer funded grants to the center.

Prompted by Roberts, County Counsel John Sansone told supervisors that accepting the gift did not constitute a conflict of interest. “We think it’s entirely appropriate,” he said.

Roberts did not comment on the gift or his pending trip during the public meeting.


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