Concerned Centerville residents want an explanation for the city’s new travel policy
The city passed a new policy allowing travel expenses for elected officials spouses to be reimbursed during business trips.
“What this does is if we have an official function and our spouse is there, then the city will pay for the spouse’s meal.” Centerville Mayor John Harley said.
Harley says it’s normal, but a concerned Geraldine Parker thinks otherwise. She says she doesn’t want tax dollars feeding anyone other than city officials.
“They would not want to spend any money on me if I go on a business trip with my husband.They wouldn’t want to pay for my meals either,” Parker said.
Council amended the travel policy in August saying “travel expenses related to an official’s spouse are reimbursable by the city.”
Their meals too.
“When we discussed this it was open to the audience out there. The audience was allowed to participate,” Harley said.
He says if a spouse joins an elected official on a business trip then the city will cover them.
He adds other cities around the state are doing the exact same thing.
41NBC checked other cities in Houston County:
Warner Robins’ municipal code doesn’t mention spousal benefits.
The city of Perry, however, does have a similar policy. It’s policy extends to all city employees and it can’t cost the city anything extra.
“I believe it’s fair. We have to hold ourselves to a high integrity anyway. That’s what being a city councilmen to Jon Nichols means in the first place,” councilman Jon Nichols said.
Nichols says officials have two options; using a city credit card, or taking a $125 per diem.
He adds records of what is and isn’t spent must be turned into the city.
“If we went and did this 10, 15, 20 times a year, I believe that there should be concern then, but we’re talking about two times a year,” Nichols said.
Mayor Harley thinks it’s appropriate.
“Certainly I think it’s fair. I don’t see any problem with that,” Harley said.
“I think if the wives want to go on the trip they should pay for their own meals,” Parker said.
To be clear, Centerville officials aren’t allowed spend extra money on their spouse, or any other family member, on the city’s dime except for food and travel.
Mayor Harley welcomes residents to come to a city council meeting if they have concerns.