Politics & Government

4 months after Italy, Hilton Head mayor to attend DC dinner with Trump, Italian president

Months after a controversial trip to Verona, Italy, Hilton Head Island mayor John McCann is packing his suitcase again.

He’s traveling to Washington, D.C., Wednesday for a reception for the Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whom he met briefly in June while visiting Verona for a “friendship pact” signing ceremony with the city’s mayor.

Mattarella will be visiting the White House to speak with President Donald Trump about Italy’s cooperation with the federal government’s investigation into the 2016 election, according to reports from The Hill and Reuters.

McCann told The Island Packet Monday that he was invited “because of our sister relationship” with Verona. The trip cost taxpayers nearly $15,000 for McCann, Town Manager Steve Riley and Riley’s wife, Mary Jo, to spend five days in Verona and nearby areas.

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Hilton Head Island Mayor John McCann exchanges a friendship pact with Mayor Federico Sboarina of Verona, Italy. Town of Hilton Head Island inlingua Verona

He said the trip was already paying off, as evidenced by his invitation to the White House.

“We’re thrilled to continue developing our relationship with Italy. This is an exciting opportunity to welcome and meet President and first lady Mattarella and keep our exchange of ideas open,” McCann said in a news release.

Asked if he’ll be able to speak with President Trump at the reception, McCann said he hopes to.

“I’ll tell him he’s doing a good job and invite him to play golf at Harbour Town,” he said, referencing the Harbour Town Golf Links course in Sea Pines.

After a generally negative public perception of the Italy trip, the Town of Hilton Head Island announced in a news release that the town will pay for McCann to fly coach to Washington.

“He will be accompanied by his daughter, who will be covering her own expenses,” the release said.

McCann’s adult daughter, Karen, also accompanied him to Italy.

After two days in D.C., McCann will fly to New York City to see family before returning to Hilton Head. He said Monday he will be covering the expenses to New York himself.


How will we follow this story?

The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette newspapers will continue to seek documentation of the total cost of this trip.

Once McCann returns from Washington, D.C. the newspapers will file a Freedom of Information Act request for the cost to taxpayers including airfare, meals, accommodations and mileage — some of which will not be finalized until after the trip is over.

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Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.