The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday contradicted Henderson Mayor Debra March’s claims about a trip she took with a chamber executive to Panama using campaign money.
March said she took a trip with Sallie Doebler, the chamber’s vice president of corporate partnerships, to build a relationship with an “influencer” who could help her network in the future.
It’s an explanation at odds with the chamber’s position on the nature of the trip.
“Sallie and Mayor March, as we understand it, have been friends for several years,” chamber spokeswoman Cara Clarke said. “So we have no reason to believe that their trip would be anything other than personal friendship.”
March’s campaign spokeswoman, Elizabeth Trosper, reiterated the point that Doebler acted as an influencer, but she did not address the chamber’s assertion that March and Doebler had been friends for years.
The mayor spent more than $1,800 on airfare and a vacation package for the trip, campaign finance records show. The mayor of Nevada’s second-largest city spent an additional $285 at a Panama City hotel, records show.
March said Doebler made the travel plans, but March paid for the travel with her campaign money. She also met with another mayor who was visiting from Texas, she said.
Trosper initially said in a Feb. 1 email that charges related to the trip were for outreach efforts with the chamber, but Clarke rejected that explanation, saying it had nothing to with chamber business whatsoever.
“She was not representing the chamber in any way, shape or form on the trip, and it was not a part of any of our official business,” Clarke said.
Trosper tried to walk back her comment on Tuesday
“If the perception was given that this was a Metro Chamber trip, it was incorrect,” she said.
Clarke said Doebler used personal vacation time to take the trip, which according to March’s city calendar, happened in September.
Doebler posted photos of the Panama trip with March on her Twitter account but has since deleted them. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Clarke said the chamber’s government affairs team does build relationships with candidates and follows all government guidelines for doing so. Doebler is not on that team, however.
March claimed that she spent more than $60,000 of her campaign’s money last year building relationships with potential donors and helping other candidates who were either on the ballot or entering an election year. Some of those candidates, including Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, rejected March’s claims that she helped them with their campaigns, however.
The mayor raised no money last year and is not up for re-election until 2021.