Groups wants Seelbach to repay city for White House trip

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Cincinnati Council member is facing the threat of a lawsuit over a trip to our nation's capitol paid for with taxpayer money.

Chris Seelbach and his two staff members went to Washington D.C. in May so that Seelbach could receive an award. Seelbach was then reimbursed $1,218.59 from the city for the trip, but a local organization called COAST says that reimbursement was illegal.

Seelbach was invited to Washington D.C. to accept the Harvey Milk Champions of Change Award, an award from the White House which recognized Seelbach's "strong commitment to both equality and public service."

However, Christopher Finney who represents COAST, an organization that works to limit the rate of taxes and spending, says that trip should not have been reimbursed with taxpayer money.

"It wasn't city business, so there is no reason for the taxpayers to fund that for him and two staffers to go to D.C. to watch him receive an award," said Finney.

Finney also claims that under municipal code, trip authorizations must be approved in advanced of the trip. Documents obtained by FOX19 shows that "pre-approval for travel" wasn't submitted by Seelbach until after the trip.

"Everything we did was 100 percent ethical and legal. We had a 2-hour work session to engage with other local officials about how to affect change in local governments," said Seelbach. "Nothing was illegal or unethical, and to suggest it was, is very disappointing."

Seelbach also claims that COAST is attacking him personally for being gay.

"We go after illegal expenditures of money," said Finney. "We don't go after people for who they are."

Finney says it's now up to City Solicitor John Curp to review the facts of the case and decide whether Seelbach must repay the money for the trip.

Finney says if the city decides to do nothing, they will file a lawsuit against Chris Seelbach.

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