The new policies come in response to a resolution introduced by Commissioner Robb Pitts and approved by the board at its Aug. 21 meeting imposing a moratorium on payment or reimbursement for travel and training expenses for county employees, appointed members of boards and commissions, officers, and elected officials, including commissioners.
Chairman John Eaves asked Aug. 21 if there is merit in using a travel agency, which the proposed policy prohibits.
“The issue is people can go anywhere to get airline tickets or hotel [rooms]. There may be some benefit in a travel professional making arrangements. There may be some level of consistency,” he said.
Changes in the proposed policy include seeking government rates at hotels, using federal per diem reimbursement rates for meals and the introduction of a department travel credit card, aka T-card, to book and pay for travel and training.
Pitts’ resolution also strongly encouraged other elected officials to not seek mileage reimbursement during the term of the moratorium, which is open-ended.
Mileage, according to Assistant Finance Director Sharon Whitmore, is reimbursed for employees who use their own cars to get to work in other locations than the government center in downtown Atlanta.
Reimbursement is at the IRS rate, she said, which is 56.5 cents per mile.
The rates in the proposed policy for hotels, meals and incidentals are the federal guidelines.
The hotel rate is a maximum of $133 daily not including tax, and for meals and incidentals the rate is $56.
Pitts said in a statement when he encouraged his colleagues to discontinue seeking reimbursement for certain travel expenses, it was a “data-driven decision.”
“My request to elected officials to not seek mileage reimbursement was quite frankly a call for greater accountability, starting with the board of commissioners,” he said. “We have to lead by example and that means we cannot be above the policy we set, nor can we violate the public’s trust by asking them to pay for travel related to our regular duties as commissioners. “We certainly wouldn’t allow it to transpire with any other Fulton County employee.”
Pitts said he was “appalled” by how much has been spent, based on the data he received recently.
He said expenditures range from two commissioners having spent no money to others who have spent as much as $11,809 from 2011 to 2013 for travel and training.