Concerns Raised Over Elections Bd. Training Trip

SNOW HILL – Several County Commissioners displayed what some felt was an overconcern with the financial minutia of a staff training trip this week, questioning per diem amounts and why the staffers planned to rent a car.

Elections Director Patti Jackson and Deputy Director Teresa Riggin have requested permission to travel to a national elections training event, required for certification, in New Orleans in August.

“That was budgeted,” said Jackson in a later interview.

Commissioner Judy Boggs questioned some of the costs – $200 a day, for two people, for meals and expenses seemed excessive to her and she asked why the staffers would need to pay for meals when the conference would provide them.

The conference includes only a few meals, however.

Boggs suggested that the staffers present receipts for reimbursement on their return.

According to Worcester County Administrator Gerry Mason, that is already the plan.

“I just kind of estimate. It may be cheaper than the estimate,” said Jackson. “We pay for the meals and get reimbursed. I don’t know how much things cost there.”

Commissioner Louise Gulyas questioned $250 for the rental car.

“Where are they driving from?” Commissioner Virgil Shockley said.

Jackson and Riggin would use the car to drive to the hotel from the airport and back.

Shockley said that cab fare would cost only $40 each way.

“That’s a very good point. I suggest they take cabs,” said Boggs.

Hotel parking is also not inexpensive, Mason pointed out.

Commission President Jim Purnell turned the table on the commissioners, asking why they were picking apart this trip when they have not done so about others.

“Let’s treat them all alike,” Purnell said. “They’re going to bring back receipts. That’s enough for me. That should be enough for all of us.”

The commissioners approved the trip in the end.

“We ought to communicate to all of our departments that we want to be as frugal as possible,” Boggs said. “The County Commissioners are watching our pennies.”

The commissioners spent the spring cutting $24 million from budget requests, which has made them hyperaware of expenditures, Boggs acknowledged.

“We don’t want to micromanage but we certainly want to send the message, let’s watch our budgets,” Boggs said. “I believe our department heads are always conscious of that.”