A Connecticut economic development official flew business class to China and stayed in three luxury hotels while on a trade mission.
Ronald Angelo Jr., deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, spent about $7,500 of taxpayer money on the trip.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the headline official on the mission, had her expenses paid for by the Connecticut District Export Council, a nonprofit funded by businesses and supported by federal trade officials.
Merrill’s trip cost about $4,000 – or nearly half as much as Angelo’s – according to details provided by Anne Evans, district director for the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.
Evans said the DEC paid about $4,000 for Merrill’s airfare, accommodations and other expenses.
Documents obtained from DECD show Angelo’s flight cost more than $4,000, while Merrill’s cost about $2,100, according to Evans.
Air Canada flights like Angelo’s from Toronto to Beijing on a Boeing 777 feature “individual suite” seating and beds that lie flat, according to the company’s website.
DECD did not respond to requests for comment.
Evans said Angelo accompanied her, Merrill, the chairman of DEC and two CEOs on the trade mission.
She said it is important to travel with a senior government official in China. She said last year Gov. Dannel Malloy led a mission. This year, Merrill led.
“She was great to do it for us,” Evans said. “Who wants to fly halfway across the world – in coach?”
Evans described DEC-funded trade missions as “cheap and cheerful.”
“Basically, her cost is what a company would pay,” Evans said. “There was nothing that the state paid for her on this trip, or the federal government.”
“We were really grateful to have her and it made a difference,” she said.
Evans said her own trip was funded by frequent flyer miles and training fees collected by her agency.
She said a recent trip to France for Sen. Richard Blumenthal cost about $2,100. Upcoming trade missions include Australia in September with Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, and Italy in October, participants to be determined.