CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte City Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield, who was the first openly-LGBTQ politician elected to city council in 2011, is reported to have spent more city money traveling than any other of her local colleagues; Mayfield claimed nearly $5,000 more in travel expenses than Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts in the last fiscal year.
Mayfield currently serves in her third term on the city council, and is campaigning for re-election this year. She has an extensive history of advocacy for marginalized communities, including immigrant and social justice organizations. Currently, Mayfield serves the Race, Equity and Leadership Committee, and is secretary of the North Carolina Black Elected Municipal Officials.
Mayfield also serves on the Centralina Economic Development Committee, and is a board member of Smart Start of Mecklenburg County.
Best known to qnotes readers for her LGBTQ community work, Mayfield’s extensive involvement with these issues has landed her in a bit of hot water with the media for her spending. She is president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials and a former executive board member with the Human Rights Campaign.
With all these projects, Mayfield travels quite a bit. Her total expenses for the 2017 fiscal year — which ended in June — totaled $16,403 according to the Charlotte Observer. Compared to Mayor Roberts’ $11,625 and the complete local officials’ total of nearly $74,000, Mayfield’s expenses are the highest — and why?
Mayfield’s travel expenses include six trips related to LGBTQ causes and organizations costing $4,100. However, she attended twice as many conferences, trainings and events on city policy not mentioned by The Observer’s Steve Harrison.
Though the expenses raise questions, Harrison mentions that “City policy does not address whether elected officials can be reimbursed for attending political events.”
Mayfield responded to the Observer article on Facebook:
“You all know I attend conferences, learn best practices and implement them locally,” Mayfield wrote. “I post, tweet, Instagram and Go Live so that you can learn what I am learning to Stay Woke and engaged. You should not want a part-time elected body that turns down the training of policy, design standards or how to negotiate the win for [our] community.”
The city council member’s campaign manager, Caleb Theodros, reaffirmed the legitimacy of Mayfield’s travel in a statement:
“To keep up with that change, expand networks for efforts that will assist our city and to enhance our knowledge and
ability to meet the challenges that are ahead is paramount to our success as members. Council-Member
Mayfield was within the scope of policy and guidelines set forth by the City of Charlotte which are
reimbursable for training, events, mileage and conferences that the Mayor and Council may attend (as is
similar to many non-profit and for-profit jobs). These events, workshops and seminars were not used for
campaign purposes nor were they utilized for fundraising in any way.”
Theodros’ press release also suggested that the article’s emphasis on Mayfield’s sexual orientation, and its exclusion of other travel not related to LGBTQ causes, gives an incomplete picture at best — a biased one, at worst.
“The cherry picking of these was all too obvious and could only have been done, again, to stoke prejudice and incite readers by not providing the entire year and broader picture,” the release said. “She works hard for District 3 and the City of Charlotte and will continue to seek to be a better representative through training, education and gaining a better perspective of the world around us.”