May 9, 2014 10:55:56 AM
Columbus employees and elected officials can now receive per diem allowances for travel in advance.
Councilmen unanimously supported the practice, on the condition that employees and officials show receipts of all expenditures upon their return from the event. Any of the allowance received that is not spent must be returned to the city.
Councilman Joseph Mickens made the motion to implement the policy to be consistent with state code, which states any county or municipality employee or officer required to travel in the performance of official duties may receive funds in advance.
City attorney Jeff Turnage said the city previously reimbursed per diem expenses upon the person's return.
Councilman Bill Gavin said he was in favor of the policy and understood the reasoning, but wanted to make sure it was enforced properly.
"I just want to make sure that if we do this, that we're not having any employees going off paying the administration fee for that conference or that workshop and then being fed through the registration process and then coming back and turning in receipts and being paid per day per diem," Gavin said. "I certainly don't have any (issue) with someone receiving the per diem in advance of the travel, but I just want to make sure that we don't double dip."
Last October, councilmen adopted a resolution mandating elected officials to fill out an application and have it approved by a board vote before traveling on the taxpayer dime. At the time Gavin had called for the change, saying it was necessary to have more transparency from elected officials on how much money was being spent on lodging, food and travel.
Travel requests from city employees are typically placed on the council's consent agenda and approved without discussion unless a councilman removes a request from the consent agenda and places it under the policy agenda, which would then be subject to a vote.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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