Originally created 05/18/99

Agenda includes expenses



AIKEN -- The Aiken County Council might consider as early as tonight whether to change its policies for reimbursing employees for official county travel.

A series of changes proposed by District 5 Councilman Phil Napier that could tighten county-paid travel expenses will go before the full county council during its regular meeting for a first reading. It must be passed by the council on three readings to become law.

According to the proposed changes, allowable lodging expenses can be claimed only from the start to ending date of the training activity. Exceptions would be made for certain cases that require travel the day before the start of the training activity. Authorized travel would not start before 6 a.m. and would terminate by 11 p.m., and car pooling would be encouraged.

The changes are similar to federal guidelines for reimbursement of employee travel, said County Administrator Bill Shepherd.

Mr. Napier requested the changes after questioning the more than $8,100 in travel expenses claimed by 13 employees of the county magistrate courts who attended an annual convention in Myrtle Beach in February. The expenses claimed were within the courts' budget and county travel rules, county officials say. The changes as proposed might have cut the number of nights in Myrtle Beach for which the employees could have been reimbursed.

When the changes went before the council's administrative committee for review last week, District 8 Councilman Willar Hightower Jr. spoke against the changes, even though he isn't a member of that committee.

Of the two members of the three-person committee present, only Mr. Napier voted for the change.

The other member, County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, abstained from voting because, he said Monday, he didn't have enough information.

"I'm not opposed, but I don't want to do anything detrimental to county employees," he said.

Todd Bauer covers Aiken County and business issues for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.