The Douglasville City Council approved two new provisions to the travel policies for elected officials at Monday's voting meeting.
Train and air travel are now automatic options for elected officials if the destination is more than 250 miles away from city hall.
The discussion to change the ordinance came up when Mayor Rochelle Robinson had to request, in the last minutes leading up to a council meeting, to cover the costs of her trip to Savannah for an Atlanta Regional Commission meeting. An airplane was the preferred method because Robinson said she had a meeting back in the metro Atlanta area in hours following her meeting in Savannah. Other mayors in nearby cities were traveling by plane as well, Robinson said.
After the ARC meeting and during the city council meeting on Nov. 20, Robinson clarified that her trip to Savannah ended up being paid for by the ARC and that the city didn't have to pay for any of the expenses. Savannah is 269 miles away from Douglasville.
The ordinance was approved unanimously by the council.
The council also approved a $51 a day meal expense during travel except for first and last days of a trip, where an official would only be paid for 75 percent of the meal expenses. Chief Assistant City Attorney Suzan Littlefield said the 75 percent is the way that federal officials work and it's an attempt to earn taxable income. The option was the best for staff in causing the least amount of problems, according to City Manager Marcia Hampton.
"We just don't want to interfere with what happens when you're at the conference," Hampton told council members. "We want to make it easy for you, but we also don't want to caught in-between of what's offered at the conference and if you couldn't eat it or you don't like the options available. Again, because we don't know the menus in advance, you won't know the options until you get there. So we're just trying to prepare the best package for you so that you can get what you need."
The meal vote was approved by the council 3-1, with Councilman Mike Miller being the only vote against it. Miller said he voted against the item out of respect for Councilwoman LaShun Burr Danley. Danley missed Monday night's meetings to be with her family. In the Monday night's committee meeting, Hampton relayed Danley's wish to table the travel expense items on the agenda so that she could add her input to the discussion. Miller said he voted yes on the other item regarding traveling expenses because he knew the majority of the council was already voting yes based on the prior discussion in the committee meeting.
Both provisions made to the city's method of dealing with travel expenses are already included in the current travel budget.
"Adding the air travel option under certain limited conditions shouldn't have a significant impact on total travel expenditures," Councilman Richard Segal said. "Everyone is still expected to stay within their travel budget."