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County commissioners approve new travel policy

POSTED: January 13, 2014 8:36 p.m.

A new travel policy for Effingham County employees is set to go into effect, after commissioners unanimously approved its adoption last week.


Under the policy, which had been tabled three previous times, county employees under the board of commissioners must get prior approval for travel expenses and other related compensation, such as registration or fees for classes and training. Requests for travel have to be turned into the county administrator at least two weeks in advance, if possible, and elected officials are requested to submit their travel requests to the administrator for budgeting purposes.


Commissioner Reggie Loper questioned the clause that gave the county administrator the choice of either approving a travel request of $500 or more or referring to the commissioners for their consideration.


“He can go either way he wants to,” Loper said. “Either give him permission to do it or make it come before the board, instead of giving him the option.”


Interim county administrator Toss Allen said that was included so there is the option of forwarding a travel request to the board, if the administrator believes it is something they need to approve. It also gives the administrator the flexibility not to burden the commissioners “with an excessive number of these.”


“I have no heartburn with it, one way or the other,” Allen said. “If the board wants every single one, staff has no opinion on that. Currently, the administrator has the ability to approve any of them. This was written to give the board a chance to review those that didn’t seem appropriate. It was intended to give the administrator ability to refer things to the board they weren’t quite sure were appropriate. It’s not saying anything over $500 has to come before the board.”


Allen also said there are requests that exceed $1,000.


The policy also states that travel and event expenses not be approved in advance will not reimbursed. There also may be limitations placed on an employee who has announced an intention to resign and the board may elect to deny travel expenses for an elected official who is either leaving or has been defeated in an election.


Included in the policy is a mandate the board receive an itemized list of travel requests and expenses each month. Allen said that was done to provide transparency.


“Because of (that), I don’t have a problem with this as written, personally,” said Chairman Wendall Kessler. “We’re going to be getting a report every month. What administrator would want to approve something (questionable) he knows will be on the list?”

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