Funding for the mayor to attend a conference in Chicago appears to be on the way, though not as anyone would have chosen.

After a lengthy discussion that involved the city attorney, the City Council voted unanimously to accept money from a private fundraising campaign and earmark it for the mayor's travel expenses.

The question of the travel money dates back to Aug. 7, when the City Council rejected a request by Mayor Samantha Paradis for $1,000 in travel expenses to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University in October.

Paradis has been invited to speak on a panel at the conference, which will be held at the University of Chicago. The council acknowledged the honor of the invitation and encouraged Paradis to attend, but most felt it wasn't clear how the trip would benefit the city.

During that meeting, Councilor Neal Harkness suggested that Paradis start a GoFundMe.com page to raise money. Paradis didn't, but she later learned that someone else had, on her behalf.

When the council reconvened on Tuesday, the "Send Mayor Paradis to CGI U!" page, started by Dana Carver-Bialer, had raised $725 toward a goal of $1,500. Additionally, at least one check came to City Hall by mail, City Manager Joe Slocum said.

Slocum said he talked to Paradis and didn't believe there was any problem with her using the money for the trip, but said City Attorney Bill Kelly felt differently.

Speaking to the council on Tuesday, Kelly said he believes it would be improper for a city official to accept money for anything in their capacity as a city official.

"When people show up at City Hall with checks with just one of your names on it, it causes me concern," Kelly said, adding that it "sounds like pay-for-play."

Councilors expressed in various ways that they had no qualms with Paradis going to Chicago on someone else's dime.

Kelly said would be fine for to use private money to go as an individual. But any spending related to her official capacity as mayor needs to be approved the council, he said.

"I don't think we want to see any individual council member or the mayor going off and saying, the council said I can't go in terms of representing the city, but I would like everybody to contribute and then I'm going to go (anyway)."

Paradis said the invitation was addressed to her as the mayor, which she felt made it very clear. She added that she had brought the request for travel expenses to the council on the city manager's advice.

"I didn't intend to be in this position," she said. "I intended to do it correctly."

City Councilor Mike Hurley suggested that future requests be about whether the person should represent the city, "then we'll figure out how to fund it."

"My feeling was we were turning down the idea and the funding, but we only voted on the funding," he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Hurley said he also would have voted against sending Paradis as a representative of Belfast, if that had been the vote. According to a list of donors on GoFundMe.com, prior to the meeting Hurley donated $20 to the campaign to send Paradis to Chicago.

Paradis said she didn't want to go against the city's own legal recommendation and open herself to a future ethics investigation. She asked for the council's help to figure it out.

"I'm just baffled," she said. "I was invited as the mayor. I wouldn't have come to the council with this request if I didn't think it was official city business … I went through the right avenues to bring this forward and now I'm in this predicament with this money just hanging out there."

Harkness apologized to Paradis for suggesting GoFundMe, but said he hadn't anticipated the problem described by Kelly.

"I think we've done a disservice by saying we don't think this is city business and then telling you you can't raise the money because it's city business," he said.

Kelly offered a third option. He said the council could vote to accept the money as a gift to the city, and approve using it for Paradis to attend the conference in her official capacity as the mayor.

Councilors approved this option unanimously, 4-0. Councilor John Arrison was not at the meeting.