I take issue with the July 15 Butler Eagle jeer to the county commissioners for allegedly wasting time in their updating of county travel policies.
In fact, I believe that in order to combat the county government center’s culture of entitlement, it is necessary to allow public input into this reform process.
Not only should the chairman commissioner, Bill McCarrier, be commended for leading the effort to reform the county’s very lax and thus abused travel policies, but he also should be lauded for attempting to make county governance more open and transparent by allowing taxpayers to publicly comment on the issue.
The tip of this entitlement’s iceberg is a set of very loose travel rules that allow county employees to turn official travel into taxpayer-subsidized vacations or junkets, especially since the county allows a lavish policy of 100 percent travel reimbursement.
More often than not, the county controller’s office turns a blind eye at blatant violations of these travel regulations. In fact, the controller’s office seems to be one of the main culprits.
A recent instance on why county travel regulations should be updated occurred when the deputy controller went to a Tennessee conference and decided to make a 2.5-day conference into an entire week’s vacation.
The employee’s travel plans and expenses were approved by the employee herself with the blessing of her boss, Controller Jack McMillin, who, in my opinion, fails miserably as the county’s fiscal watchdog.
And it gets worse: The employee’s bus ride fee from the Nashville airport to an Opryland hotel is $40 round-trip, but the deputy controller decided to rent a vehicle for a week and then charge the county for three days — plus the hotel’s daily parking fees — which ended up costing county taxpayers more than three times more than the original bus-fee option.
This is but one example on how employees game the county’s travel regulations.
The entire conference was held at the same hotel where the deputy controller stayed, so there was no need to rent a car.
But, then, why are county taxpayers expected to subsidize any county employee’s personal vacation under the guise of county official travel? Not only does it seem that employees’ abuse of the county’s travel policies are out of control, but McMillin seems to be its “condoner-in-chief.”
So, is Butler County wasting its time taking all of the time necessary to update its loose travel policies by adding desperately needed accountability?