New Hanover County Commissioners fail to pass new travel spending policy

New Hanover County Commissioners fail to pass new travel spending policy

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A move to force New Hanover County Commissioners to follow the same guidelines of other county workers for travel failed Monday night by a vote of 3-2.

Commissioner Woody White made the motion that a new travel policy include the same spending limits for commissioners as it does for county workers who travel with taxpayer money.

White pointed out an early draft of the policy included commissioners, but no one in the county has pointed out exactly who asked for commissioners to be excluded from the spending guidelines. Two sources said Commission Chairman Jonathan Barfield asked for commissioners to be excluded, but County Manager Chris Coudriet pointed out in the meeting Monday night that neither Barfield nor any other commissioners were presented with the draft that included commissioners, so he never knew it existed.

"My goal is to work within the confines as much as I can," Jonathan Barfield said.

That's a sentiment echoed by nearly every other commissioner, as Beth Dawson, Rob Zapple and Skip Watkins all said they would attempt to follow the proposed guidelines for county workers. However, when presented with a motion to make it policy, commissioners Dawson and Zapple joined Barfield in voting down the effort. Watkins voted for the spending limits with White.

"If I'm out of town, it should not cost me additional money on top of the money I'm already losing to do the work of the county," Rob Zapple said.

Zapple's move contrasts with his opinion while running for the office of commissioner just four months ago. During a debate in October of last year, Zapple said commissioners should consider spending limits.

"Strong leadership is one that leads and uses common sense. You don't go out and buy a $100 meal when you have a per diem and everyone around you has a $25 per diem," Rob Zapple said in October 2014.

Employees of New Hanover County will now be subject to a travel policy when it goes into effect with administrative action within 30 days.

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