While Nutter intends to use campaign funds to cover his own convention expenses, Philadelphia taxpayers are on the hook for the rest of Nutter's entourage - a tab that may reach $10,000 including salaries, airfares, hotel rooms, and related expenses.
"We believe the five city employees who are there in support of the mayor are appropriately paid by the city," said Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, who was left behind in City Hall.
Past mayors and police commissioners have deployed similar security details at national political conventions, McDonald said. And the use of public funds to bring selected aides to conventions was authorized four years ago by the mayor's chief integrity officer, Joan Markman, a Nutter appointee and former federal prosecutor.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who is expected to seek reelection next year to the position as the city's financial watchdog, "would rather not comment" on the issue, said his top aide, Harvey Rice.
Sam Katz, the three-time Republican mayoral candidate who now heads the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the city's financial oversight board, was less reticent.
"The mayor could make the case that he's representing Philadelphia in a place where there are going to be a lot of heavy hitters," Katz said Tuesday. "The problem is, so will the mayor of every other big city. .. . . To me, it's not a strong case that this is City of Philadelphia business. It strikes me as party business, and party business should be paid for with either party money or campaign funds."
Nutter's campaign committee listed a balance of $85,321 in its most recent report.
In 2008, Markman wrote that there was justification for taxpayers covering Nutter's travel costs to the Democrats' convention in Denver that year, though he chose to pay them with campaign dollars.
"The mayor's attendance . . . will bring positive attention to the city and provide opportunities for interacting with Democratic leaders and officeholders in a position to affect legislation and policies that would have an impact on cities in general and Philadelphia in particular," Markman wrote.
"I see this as no different from a decision about the city paying for the mayor's attendance at other out of town events."
The city could also pay, she wrote, for the mayor's security staff, "since their obligations to keep him safe have no geographical or time limitations," and for personal staff "who keep his schedule, get him from place to place, provide him with materials he needs, transmit messages and would help him attend to the city's business back home while he's in Denver."
Of the police traveling with the mayor, McDonald said one officer acts as driver, and they work shifts to keep up with the mayor's schedule.
"It's a decision that was not solely the mayor's," he said. "I think the police commissioner and past commissioners with past mayors have made a decision that we're going to insure safety, as close to 100 percent as possible. That creates a cost but one that is reasonable."
Convention officials have announced that Nutter is among six mayors invited to address the convention, but his precise spot on the schedule had not yet been announced as of Tuesday. The convention ends Thursday night with Obama's prime time acceptance speech.
Gov. Christie brought a larger entourage along when he delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last week. Spokesman Michael Drewniak said taxpayers covered the governor's state police security detail, which "is with him everywhere he goes, whether on state business, political affairs or, for example, on vacation, no matter where he is."
The Republican Governors Association paid the expenses of Christie and his family, Drewniak said, while civilian aides who attended the convention had to use their vacation time. "There were no taxpayer-borne expenses for either travel, lodging or meals for those attendees," he said.
Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inquirer staff writer Matt Katz contributed to this article.