Some Say Wireless Chief Goes Too Far

Philadephia tech czar Dianah Neff is being criticized for her frequent travelling and the expenses incurred for attending events. Neff, who earns $193,800 a year as the city’s chief information officer, has participated in 56 technology conferences in the U.S. and abroad since joining Mayor Street’s team in 2001. Neff said her appearances generated revenues for and brought fame to Philadelphia, a view echoed by Street spokesman Joe Grace and City Solicitor Romulo Diaz. The city is not the only one footing the bill for Neff’s flights, meals and hotels. Some for-profit organizations like Earthlink also pay to get her to serve as a panelist or keynote speaker in meetings, particularly those that took place in Shanghai, Spain, Taiwan and San Francisco. Grace saw nothing wrong with Neff accepting all-expense-paid trips because such travel, “where it serves a legitimate government purpose,” is considered “a gift to the city” and “not a gift to an individual.” Some raised questions against this argument. “I question the propriety of gifts from any association or potential vendor that would benefit a city employee who is capable of making very expensive decisions,” Zack Stalberg of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy stated. Despite the criticisms, Neff is showing no signs of slowing down — she is scheduled to chair technology-related conferences in London and South Africa this fall.
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