Council spouses meet to squelch rumors

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

The controversial City Council retreat at the Tides Inn in Irvington that took place over the weekend was a stag gathering.

After rumors reportedly began circulating that council members were taking along their spouses at taxpayer expense, several of the spouses decided to contact the media in an effort to quash the rumors.

Linda Dickens, Susie Bennett, Mary Brown and Evelyn Jones, spouses respectively of Mayor E. Dana Dickens III, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, and councilmen Charles Brown and Calvin Jones, all said Friday they had better things to do than to be bored by the working agenda of their spouses. The quartet had met for lunch at Applebees in Suffolk.

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&uot;I knew our husbands would be away so I thought it would be great if we (wives) all got together for lunch,&uot; said Mrs. Dickens. &uot;I called Susie and she accepted and then I called the rest.

&uot;Sarah Milteer and Ann Ralph couldn’t make it because Sarah had a previously set appointment and Ann is up to her elbows making apple cakes. After we finish lunch, we’re going over to see Ann for desert!&uot;

Mrs. Dickens said she has had quite a bit of &uot;good-natured ribbing&uot; from people asking if she was going to the exclusive resort with her husband.

&uot;They (council) have an agenda and a deadline and a lot to accomplish while they are there,&uot; said Mrs. Dickens. &uot;They’re not there to party but to work, and I know my husband has a lot he wants to accomplish while there.

&uot;This retreat is a working event and they have a consultant there with them, and they don’t need the distraction of their wives.&uot;

Mrs. Brown said she was far too busy with her job as an instruction specialist for Suffolk Public Schools to accompany her husband on the retreat.

&uot;I work with the math and science teachers so I don’t have time to go, and besides we would have very little interest in what they are doing. They are there to interact with each other in a non-structured environment so that they can work together as a team for the entire city.&uot;

Mrs. Bennett said she believes the facts about the retreat have been misrepresented.

&uot;Some may consider the retreat expensive but when you think of all they accomplish, it’s worthwhile,&uot; she said. &uot;My husband is paying for his room, however, after all the controversy over the expense.&uot;

Rooms at the Tides Inn were expected to cost about $220 a night.

According to Mrs. Bennett, the retreats are an invaluable tool in the workings of the city.

&uot;I think they need to go out to learn what other communities are doing and bring back innovative ideas that can be put to use in our city,&uot; she said.

&uot;No one can grow without staying in the fast track of learning.&uot;