$75/day Lowndes County Travel Policy @ LCC 24-25 October 2011

Commissioner Crawford Powell wanted exemptions or exceptions to Lowndes County’s travel policy for “department heads, elected officials, County Manager”. Commissioner Richard Raines just wanted the limits raised. Commissioner Joyce Evans preferred they
…make a statement that we should not exceed a certain amount per day.
Chairman Ashley Paulk said exceptions were a problem and indicated they would be a bad idea. Powell and Raines are the same Commissioners who thought accepting a federal grant for NOAA Weather Radios would be “wasteful spending” of tax dollars and who refused a federal grant for an emergency vehicle. Spending local taxes seems fine with then when it comes to their travel expenses. They finally adopted a total of $75/day for meals. I hate to agree with Frank Barnas, but GSA standard for trips to Atlanta is $56/day.

At the Monday 24 October 2011 County Commission Work Session, County Manager Pritchard said the county’s travel policy had been discussed during their retreat and during budget preparations, with changes for mileage reimbursement, meal limitations, and use of tax forms. .

This is the policy we have been acting under since the adoption of the budget. I just wanted to bring it back before you to make this adoption public.
Joyce Evans expressed a concern about it saying the County Manager or his designee could approve expenses. She seemed to want the designee part removed.

Crawford Powell said:

I’m concerned on the limitations on the meals, uh, that if we get into a situation where we’re out of town traveling, taking a number of folks in and out, that the limits are going to leave some of us exposed if you run into that situation. Or department heads, elected officials, County Manager; is there any exemptions to that or exceptions to that we can write in there?
County Manager Pritchard said he didn’t remember anything about that, but said the Commission could make changes.

Powell resumed his request:

I’m still concerned that I want a policy that’s practical and that’s frugal, but I don’t want to have one also that’s going to bind somebody and put somebody in a bad position if they’re over that amount. You know if there can be an exception written in there with documentation based on department heads, County Manager, elected officials, or something like that. I’m just concerned that we’re going to institute a policy that’s so strict. And I don’t expect it to be uh, something that’s going to happen very often, but I think it would be prudent to put in some exception based on that level.
County Manager Pritchard offered to draft some language. Powell asked a third time.

Finally Chairman Paulk spoke up:

Then you get into a definition of what is appropriate….

I just think it would be a lot of exceptions. You start making exceptions to the rule, it’s not good.

Joyce Evans said she thought they talked about it before.

Powell tried yet again, using downtown Atlanta as an example.

Joyce Evans got more definite:

…make a statement that we should not exceed a certain amount per day.
Powell kept arguing. Paulk again said there shouldn’t be exceptions (I think; he had his hand in front of his face and was hard to hear).

Powell finally asked if the policy would apply across the board to all county employees or just this building. Pritchard said there was only one policy adopted by the board, and it was applicable to all employees under the direction of the elected officials.

I would strongly advocate that whatever policy we have applies to the Commission and employees, because I think the elected officials should lead by example and if we’re trying to be frugal, we should lead by example. I think Commissioner Powell raises a point about Atlanta or some other larger metropolitan area. This is similar to the travel policy that we have with the company I work for. I travel quite a bit and I never exceed the amount we have but I think that our amount is a little bigger for lunch and dinner. I think it’s $25 for lunch and I think it’s $50 per dinner, I think our travel policy is. But of course we’re a government, not a for-profit company so we can’t expect to go by that same standard.
Good preamble, but what’s he going to propose? Here it comes:
But I think rather than have some exceptions to the rules, raise those limits a little bit. I think I could go to lunch and dinner on that but I’d hate to see us in a situation where we were, we had to you know turn in receipts if I had a meal meal for $30 and I’m writing a check to the county for $5. I’d hate to get into some situation like that. You could probably even raise those amounts by $10 and you’d still be good.
Just make a big exception right at the start!

Pritchard got the Attorney to clarify:

This is intended to apply to the Commissioners and the employees of the Commissioners….

Commissioner Raines made a good point that elected officials would actually lead by example.

Crawford Powell then said he hoped this would set a standard across the entire county.

Chairman Paulk remarked that it would be by example, since the Commission couldn’t tell the rest of the county what to do.

Here’s Part 1 of 2:

$75/day Lowndes County Travel Policy @ LCC 24-25 October 2011 Part 1 of 2:
Work Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 24 October 2011.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.

The next day, at the Tuesday 25 October 2011 Regular Session, as near as I can tell they removed the designee, did not add exemptions or exceptions, but they did add this by Richard Raines:

$15 for breakfast, $25 for lunch, and $35 for the rest.
I think that’s $75/day.

The Travel Policy passed unanimously with those amendments. Maybe someday we the taxpayers will get to see it.

Back in March Richard Raines and Crawford Powell voted to refuse to accept a federal grant for NOAA Weather Radios. Raines said that would be “wasteful spending”.

These same two Commissioners voted against a Homeland Security Agency grant for an Emergency Operations Center.

(Commissioner Evans voted for both of those grants.)

I guess spending tax money for fancy meals in Atlanta is not wasteful spending, by these same two Commissioners’ statements a week ago. Apparently tax money is good to spend if it’s spent on them.

Here’s Part 2 of 2:

$75/day Lowndes County Travel Policy @ LCC 24-25 October 2011 Part 2 of 2:
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 25 October 2011.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.