San Jose Officials’ Sister City Trip to Dublin Expected to Cost at Least $20,000

The Emerald Isle is calling. Ten San Jose officials will fly this week to Dublin, Ireland, for the bi-annual “Sister City” trip, which is basically a pub crawl disguised as a city-sponsored economic development junket. Among the lucky 10 are four councilmembers (Xavier Campos, Rose Herrera, Ash Kalra and Johnny Khamis); three department heads (budget director Jennifer Maguire; Joe Hedges, of economic development; and environmental services’ Kerrie Romanow); two council chiefs of staff (Shane Patrick Connolly, for Khamis; and Mary Anne Groen, for Herrera); and one soon-to-retire city manager, Debra Figone. If that seems like overkill, well, it is. Some readers might remember that just a little more than a year ago the city was coming off a solid decade of budget shortfalls. But also consider that San Jose will have additional representation with an accompanying sister-sister city group from the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. After factoring in plane flights, food and lodging, conservative estimates suggest $20,000 leak out of the city’s coffers—and that’s after Fly found out that some of the city’s emissaries are actually planning to pay out of pocket or reimburse the city. Groen says she will pay her way from the start, while Kalra promised to reimburse the city as soon as he returns home. “Bottom line, I’m reimbursing my office,” he said. “I’m going to pay for everything.” We’ll check back on that in November. Figone has already stated she’ll pay for her food and lodging, as her husband is joining her, but there seems to be little gained by sending the city manager on a trip when her tour of service expires in just two months. “It’s a reasonable question you ask—what’s the return on investment on this?” said communications director David Vossbrink. “She realizes with anything, there’s some second guessing.” Perhaps more perplexing is why Khamis, a first-year councilmember, needs to use his district funds, which come from the general fund, to take his staffer along for the ride. “I’m actually going to help introduce him to many of my contacts in Dublin,” Connolly told Fly. “I’ve gone over a few times on my own dime, as a member of the Sister City Committee.” So, basically, Khamis needs somebody to vouch for him. Good luck with that. But of all the reasons Fly heard for why the trip is money well spent, the least convincing had to be the Brooklyn Bridge defense: Dublin sends its contingent every year, while San Jose only goes every other.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. This trip is a joke. The city council scream and rant there is no money to keep libraries open, fix potholes or pay police and firefighters yet they pull a scam like this. The Fly is right Deb Figone is leaving her job (un-completed) in less than two months. What benefit will the tax payers see from her inclusion in this junket? CITY COUNCIL…WAKE UP AND CANCEL THIS TRIP AND WASTE OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS.

  2. Is this the same Shane Patrick Connolly, who when running for state office was quoted as saying, “There is a great deal of waste, fraud and abuse in government”, and if elected his top priority is promoting “a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility” in government??? Isn’t this also the mantra of his boss, Johnny Khammis? HYPOCRITES!!!!!

  3. Thank you Ash Kalra and Mary Goen for being willing to pay your own way for what is obviously a fluff trip/vacation.  If the only benefit you get is that you don’t have to use your vacation days, that is good enough.

    It would seem Baby Huey Campos didn’t get his fill of tax payer FREE LUNCHES at the table of his mentor Gorgeous George Shame-o-kawa and now wants to free again at the trough of public money.  Tell us Mr Campos what exactly is it YOU have personally accomplished for D5?  People are suffering in this district but its nice you can go on an all expense trip to Dublin.  Be careful about that Russian trip though, I hear they don’t like your kind there.

  4. Its Funny how this City Council keeps stressing that San Jose is Broke ( we are NOT!,Proven lies!) yet San Jose tax payers are on the hook for this needless and wasteful trip. Khamis is nothing short of a two-face Opportunist liar.  He assisted Mayor Burns in dismantling Public Safety , yet has no problem wasting taxpayer monies on a vacation.  All of these tools can spout that this trip was needed for a plethora of reasons, but the simple and honest truth is they wanted a free vacation. there are a number of issues here in San Jose that could have used that money. this city is truely sinking to new lows

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