I've received a few emails over the last week of people happy that we're watching out for their tax money and the way the New Hanover County commissioners spend it.
Let's be clear - the county has a need for workers to travel. Some may dispute that, but I think travel is necessary.
The thing that really bothers me is the recurring theme in most every email I receive. It's simple - every person representing the county should be made to follow the same guidelines. To do otherwise, is just bad policy.
Some commissioners say it's not possible, because they go to more expensive places like Washington, D.C. Here's the problem with that logic. So do other people now covered under the county travel policy. And, as it should be, that per diem amount is scalable for more expensive cities.
Here's what we know for certain. We have three commissioners who have now gone on the record after last week's vote as to their opinion on whether or not commissioners should limit spending. No matter what they tell you, Rob Zapple, Jonathan Barfield and Beth Dawson all voted against keeping commissioner spending on the same playing field as county workers.
That is a fact.
Your responsibility in all of this is to keep information like this in mind the next time you make decisions about who our leaders should be.
That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2015 WECT. All rights reserved.
Emailed comments from viewers:
I think you should compare county policy with business policy. I don't know what you'll find but when I worked for private engineering firms and had government contracts the per diem was the same for everyone.
Thank you for keeping the travel policy issue on the front burner. I wrote an email to Commissioner Barfield and received no reply.
I am agreeable to a sliding scale travel policy based on visiting certain cities(Washington DC, etc) for city / county business, however, I will never accept that my tax dollars should pay for commissioners to attend black tie fund raisers or social events. I pay for my ticket to attend, why should I pay for their ticket.
Maybe WECT could investigate the use of funds by our representatives to secure tickets for fund raising events over the last few years.
Please keep pressing this issue!
Thank you for you for continuing to inform viewers about the decision of the majority of our County Commissioners to adopt the same per diem rates for travel , especially meals as required for county employees. In the big picture their expenses are probably a very miniscule percentage of our county's budget ; however, it is arrogant behavior and indicative of poor leadership to set limits on employees and place yourself above such limits, most especially when traveling to the same locations.
I have traveled for almost 30 years on county, state government and non profit per diem rates. Often, I have visited a city where I wanted to visit a nationally acclaimed restaurant. Unlike 2 of our County Commissioners and County Manager, I didn't rent a car to travel the 5 or so miles, I took a taxi which I paid for myself and I paid the difference in the per diem allowed and the extravagate bill for the meal personally. I've also eaten granola bars and fruit from home with coffee in the room for breakfast to save my per diem for the expensive lunch and dinner. It's just common sense for leaders to be good stewards of tax dollars and the funds of non profit organizations.
After Mr. Barfield's statement about there not being any restaurants other than a Ruth Chris around the Washington Hilton, I called the Hilton and asked about economical restaurants around the hotel. (I have stayed there before and knew there were several. ) The representative confirmed there is still a Chipole, Subway , and other food outlets within easy waking distance.
A big thank you for you and your staff for keeping elected government officials honest. So often they try to hide their little extras and perks behind the fog that is budgeted spending thinking no one-especially the average tax payer- will ever see their hand in the cookie jar or coloring outside the lines. They preach "don't do as I do but, do as I say do". They are no better than anyone else who works for the governments of the city or county. The commissioners are elected, hired by us and payed by us and certainly not better than anybody else who works for us. You are right. Some travel is necessary and the sliding scale should be in place to account for higher cost of living areas. But that needs to be established so that there is no question what ones limits will be.
The same thing seems to have been going on at CFCC and we thank you all for nailing what I think Woody White was going after there and at County.
Also, I've often wondered about UNCW. Seems like there is always something going on below what the public is allowed to see. Seems they are hiring a dean of this or an associate dean of that while cutting or limiting one of the athletic programs. How many people at the university are actually involved in student learning as opposed to administrative and support functions? All at good salaries.