New Hanover County Commissioners have rejected a proposed limit on travel expenses for Board Members.
At Monday's regular meeting, Commissioner Woody White suggested travel decisions be shaped by the answers to three questions.
"Is the travel, whether it’s by a commissioner or particularly by employees or department heads and so forth, is it necessary for licensing and certification? Secondly, is the topic of the conference relevant to an issue we’re addressing?"
If the answer to those first two questions is “yes”, then, says White, commissioners should look for an online alternative, such as a webinar, before booking travel. Running county government, he says, is basic blocking and tackling – funding sheriffs and schools.
White also suggested a travel budget for each Board Member.
Commissioner Rob Zapple argued that meetings of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, the National Association of Counties, the Council of Governments, and the University of North Carolina School of Government offer direct access to fellow commissioners and state and federal elected officials. That access, says Zapple, helps advance the county agenda.
"This kind of important advocacy work is most effective in a one-on-one conversation and in building personal relationships that can be expanded upon. It is difficult, if not impossible, to create a working business or political relationship that is built on trust and do that over the phone or through email."
Zapple punctuated his remarks by saying he supports an increase in the travel budget.
Beth Dawson and Jonathan Barfield agree conference attendance is a worthwhile use of county funds. Skip Watkins says he’s in favor of a budget for each commissioner.
Earlier this year, Woody White tried and failed to get the Board to adopt travel spending limits.
During yesterday’s meeting, White moved to exclude charity fundraisers from the list of reimbursable expenses. That motion also failed.