Officials OK Food, Drink Reimbursement Policy

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s growing tourism-related sales team this week got another tool for wooing potential clients with the approval of a new policy on meals and incidental expense reimbursements.

Over the last year or so, the Town of Ocean City has been retooling its brand and expanding its sales reach with a reorganization of several key departments operating under the umbrella of the director of tourism and business development. As a result, the team has been reaching out to a diverse group of clients including special events promoters, sports tournament promoters and a variety of other clients who could bring additional business to the resort.

Heretofore, the town has not had a stated policy on reimbursement for entertaining clients with dinners and other “reasonable” expenses. City Manager Terry McGean this week introduced the proposed policy to the Mayor and Council.

“This was an issue that was raised a little while ago,” he said. “As we have grown our sales staff at the convention center, the convention center itself, special events, they need to take potential clients out to dinner. That happens a lot of times.”

McGean said the proposed policy clearly defines the circumstances during which one of the key identified personnel could be reimbursed for treating potential clients with strict guidelines and limitations.

“We have had no formal policy in place for how to handle that,” he said. “So, what this policy does is allow for it, where before it didn’t exist. It allows certain people to utilize the policy, not every employee, whose specific job function is selling the city.”

The short list of department heads and top sales employees eligible for the policy includes the director of tourism and business development, convention center director, director of sales, director of special events, sports sales manager and convention center manager.

“It allows them to take clients out to dinner while they’re doing their job selling the town,” he said. “It limits the amount they are allowed to spend per person to essentially three times what their government per diem would be.”

For example, the current federal per diem rate is $31. In the town’s policy, a total dinner cost including food, gratuity and beverages should not exceed $93 per person under the formula. Finance department staff will review all original receipts and determine if the charges are deemed reasonable and meet the town and IRS standards.

According to the policy as written, alcoholic beverages will be considered reasonable as long as they are included in the “reasonable” per person amount.

“It does allow them to buy alcohol, but they must abide by all other city regulations regarding the consumption of alcohol,” said McGean.

With no discussion, the council voted 6-0 with Councilman John Gehrig absent to approve the new reimbursement policy for certain members of the town’s sales team.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.