City Councilman Ed Neal has agreed to reimburse the City of Vista $1,136 for his June trip to Washington, where he and other former Democrats who have joined the Republican Party lunched with President Reagan.
"Basically, I got tired of all the fighting and bickering and fuss caused by this thing," Neal said. "I know people are going to think I'm admitting I'm wrong, but I'm not. I just want to put this thing behind us and stop the negative image it's causing the city."
The councilman's use of city funds for air fare and hotel accommodations during the trip sparked furious protest from Councilman Lloyd von Haden and numerous residents who charged that Neal was using public funds for personal and politically partisan activity.
They argued that taxpayers should not finance the trip and White House luncheon because they were of no benefit to Vista.
Neal, however, countered that he took the trip "as a city official," made important contacts while in Washington and explored private funding sources for a new city hall.
Last week, the council deadlocked 2-2 over the issue, with Councilwoman Gloria McClellan absent. The matter is slated to come up again on Tuesday, when McClellan was expected to break the tie and vote against Neal.