Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. told colleagues last week he would be celebrating his birthday out of town, and he did.
As Augusta commissioners held the last official 2021 meeting on Dec. 7, with the mayor pro tem presiding, Davis was half a world away.
Davis actually flew to the Middle East nation of Qatar, according to Qatar Ministry of Municipality website.
Numerous international media sources also show Davis joined five other United States mayors who met with the Qatari Minister of Municipalities, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Subaie, on Dec. 9.
According to the ministry website, the American mayors traveled to the country to discuss climate change.
The meeting centered around aspects of cooperation between the “Qatar Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and U.S. cities in the fields of environmental affairs and climate change and ways to develop them, especially in the field of climate change,” according to the state-run Peninsula newspaper out of Qatar.
The mayors of Lansing, Mich., Rochester Hills, Mich., Oklahoma City, Newark, N.J. and St. Petersburg, Fla. joined Davis at meetings that took place in the capital city of Doha. A Twitter post by Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt offers no indication that the delegation was sponsored by any national mayors’ group or association.
Holt posted pictures of the delegation posing with the Qatari Minister of Municipalities as well as a group photo taken at U.S. Tinker Air Force Base, located within Al Udeid Air Base southwest of the capital city.
Augusta District 10 Commissioner John Clarke says he is mystified as to why the mayor would go globetrotting in the midst of the continuing pandemic and said he did not know of the trip or how it might have been paid for.
“I have no idea why he was there or even why he would want to go,” Clarke said.
Qatar is a small kingdom abutting Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The oil-rich nation, which allied with U.S. coalition forces in both the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, has recently come to international attention as being the broker between the Taliban and American forces evacuating from Afghanistan.
The country is considered one of the more moderate regimes in the Middle East, but remains under the authoritarian rule of the House of Al Thani. Women were given the right to vote in 1999, but according to the State Department, the country still allows forms of slavery.
Among other human rights abuses, homosexuality can be still be punished by death, according to a published report in The Independent.
The mayor’s office has not responded to questions sent in writing, and Davis’ Chief of Staff Petula Burks has not returned detailed phone messages, so it remains unclear how the trip was funded.
Airfare from Augusta to Doha is roughly $3,000.