NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - "I can't see myself utilizing the county's reimbursement policy. I did not seek reimbursement for expenses in my time on the New Hanover County Board of Education. With that said, Ms. Kusek's position that only those who can "foot their own bill" should be eligible to hold public office is not "crass" – it's elitist. A policy like that would, in effect, prevent the average person in New Hanover County from being able to hold public office. If it is her position that activities carried out in public service should not be compensated, one has to wonder why she has for five years endorsed a policy whereby Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board members are compensated $300/month regardless of meeting attendance. Ms. Kusek should know that you can't run from your record, regardless of the campaign promises you make going forward. It is clear the Ms. Kusek is out of touch with the struggles that our county residents experience day to day and year to year. She has endorsed and/or implemented policies in her time on the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board that drive this point home; fines, fees and penalties are high enough to bankrupt some residents or to force them to move. Ms. Kusek lives a very different life from most people in New Hanover County. She has purses and shoes that cost more than the typical car driving on county roads. If you don't believe me, reference https://vimeo.com/87729555. While I don't begrudge anyone nice things, we don't need more elected officials who are out of touch with the people they serve. Elected officials should not take advantage of those they govern; likewise, we should never enact policy which would prevent the average citizen from serving in public office."
"Although, I am unfamiliar of the context of Ms. Kusek's' remarks, I agree with her when she says "…I know this is going to sound a little crass …" Her comments are both tactless and ridiculous. It appears her interpretation of candidates for elected office should be limited to those among us who can "foot their own bill". It would be nice, but then we would have only elected officials from a wealthy class of people. This is not only insensitive; it's wrong.
Everyone on approved official travel for the county or their company is entitled to reimbursement for reasonable expenditures in the performance of their approved official travel. What is next, county employees "footing their own bill"? I hope no one will define our citizens, county employees. or elected leaders by who they are or how much they can pay; rather for what they can contribute to our communities.
My opinion is every county employee, including commissioners, managers, supervisors, etc. should be use the same travel policy. And be reimbursed at the same rate and with the same limitations. Public Service, including official travel, is about responsibility and accountability. The commissioners must make their best value judgment regarding a county travel policy and it could be a first-step in rebuilding public trust.
"All of our board members receive a $300-a-month stipend for their work on our board.
In 2014, CFPUA moved from a paper-based work process to one that is almost completely electronic to save our customers tens of thousands of dollars a year in printing costs. Board members were provided with two options to work with the electronic process: 1) use of a CFPUA-issued tablet, or 2) use of their own personal device.
To also cut down on costs, CFPUA uses a system where a stipend is provided to pay for use of the person's personal device for CFPUA work. Because Ms. Kusek uses her personal tablet for CFPUA work, she receives a stipend of $54 a month. This is not a unique arrangement. CFPUA offers the same stipend to all of our board members who use their personal devices for CFPUA work, as well as to essential personnel who are required to be available at all times.
Concerning the trip to New York City, it occurred on October 29 and 30, 2014, a two-day, one-night trip where Jim Flechtner, CFPUA's Executive Director; Cheryl Spivey, our then-Chief Financial Officer; and Pat Kusek, Chair of the CFPUA Board, went to New York City to help direct our bond sale to fund CFPUA's capital improvement projects.
The group arrived in New York City around noon on October 29 and met with key bond sale-related personnel at Citi throughout the remainder of the business day. The actual bond sale at Citi began at 8:30 a.m. the next morning and continued throughout the day, successfully ending mid-afternoon on the 30th. Mr. Flechtner, Ms. Spivey, and Chair Kusek departed New York City at 7 p.m. and returned to Wilmington at 11:30 p.m. Chair Kusek paid for her one-night stay in a hotel, while CFPUA paid for her flight. Chair Kusek also received $78 as a total reimbursement for meals for the two days."