If you've been to Chapel Hill Town Council meetings, you've probably noticed the tidy buffet bar in the corner of Town Hall chambers where elected officials graze.
So, we wondered: What are they eating? Where does it come from? How much does it cost, and who pays for it?
The council spent $4,548.41 feeding itself from November 2008 to November 2009. It rang up its largest single expense, a $1,537.20 tab at the Franklin Hotel, during the annual council retreat dinner, where all nine members, 18 senior managers, three staff members and one "retreat facilitator" filled their bellies. Average cost per person: $49.59.
For regular meetings, your elected officials nibble on a variety of nonperishable items: candy, cookies, nuts, cheese and crackers, along with water and soda. Fresh fruit has been included lately because some council members have requested healthier options.
They dine on boxed meals when meetings conflict with dinner, and plated meals at hotels and restaurants for retreats. The money comes from town coffers, specifically, the council's meeting and travel account. Carol Abernathy, executive assistant to the town manager, is charged with purchasing the grub and tries to buy it from Chapel Hill businesses. However, most of the food comes from Harris Teeter, the supermarket chain based in Matthews, N.C.
Editor's Note: This column is based on public records requests to local, state and federal agencies. Are you curious? We'll submit your public records requests. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.