Naples mayor taking flak over trip to China

Posted at 6:29 PM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 18:29:13-05

Questions are being raised over a trip that Naples Mayor John Sorey took to China last year on the taxpayer's dime, 2 weeks from the mayoral election. 

The trip happened in January 2015, at a cost of $4,228, and was meant to strengthen relations with Chinese investor Yuan Yukui, who Sorey said was interested in developing a hotel and restaurant on 5th Avenue South. But with so little record of the visit to China at the city's expense, it's suddenly become an issue only 2 weeks away from Sorey's bid to remain the mayor of Naples. City council members Bill Barnett and Teresa Heitmann are running against Sorey.

Sorey said that the trip and the expenses were worth it.

"They want you to come to see them." Sorey said. "Chinese business is all about relationships."

With the mayoral election looming two weeks away, the question of what happened to the receipts for his expenses has been raised in local media. Sorey believes one of his opponents is behind it, but wouldn't say which one.

Heitmann said that it wasn't her.

"I do not know who raised that question," she said. "I had heard about it. I had not found out any details."

Fox 4 reached out to Bill Barnett to ask him if he had any problem with Sorey's China trip, but have yet to hear back. 

Heitmann does think it's worth discussing.

"Why did we go to China to seek out international businesses to come to Naples?" she said. "Because that's not what this community wants."

Sorey explained the lack of receipts for his trip by saying it was a package deal.

"That's just the way a package deal works," he said. "You don't get a receipt for each thing that you do."