Kennedy proposes eliminating Victorville councilor travel budgets - http://travelporn.info | luxury travel sitesApril 22, 2018 12:51 pm
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“Everywhere I go, believe me, I’m there to serve you,” Councilwoman Gomez said.
VICTORVILLE — Councilman Jim Kennedy proposed talks this week to get rid of travel spending allotments for elected officials and, instead, have such expenses just be subject to Council approval.
“I’d like to have a discussion about eliminating council member travel budgets,” Kennedy said Tuesday. “I think our travel ought to be approved by the Council and I just don’t think the budget for that item is appropriate anymore.”
Ridding travel budgets as a matter of policy would undo a system first put into place in 1993. In October, the spending policy was incorporated into the newly adopted City Council Policy Manual.
The call for conversation comes two weeks after the Daily Press reported that Councilwoman Blanca Gomez had been reimbursed for travel expenses this fiscal year at a total more than all her fellow councilors combined.
Gomez had been reimbursed $4,390.74 for attendance at a series of events, three hotel stays and two airplane flights, while the others had combined reimbursements of $2,491.17 over the same period.
Kennedy was the only councilor who had not submitted any travel expenses.
Gomez had spent $165.94 over the $1,200 individual allotment afforded to each council member and was the only one to dip into a group pool, expensing $2,096.80 from the $5,000 total set aside for any council member above and beyond their individual spending limit.
She was reimbursed another $928 for travel expenses associated with a League of California Cities conference from a separate fund earmarked for such travel. Mayor Gloria Garcia and Councilman Eric Negrete also attended and were each reimbursed.
Gomez’s itemized spending did not appear to reflect anything unexpected from a city official, but it was the frequency of travel requests that raised scrutiny. She expensed at least 15 events, more than double the next closest colleague — Garcia with 7.
The “irregular number of travel requests” spurred the city to conduct an internal audit of all council member expenses, spokeswoman Sue Jones said, that led to added controls including that requests — typically OK’d by the Council — must be submitted to the city manager.
Gomez has shrugged off the concern of city officials, viewing herself as a hyper-engaged elected with an ear to the ground to better serve the constituency.
On Tuesday, she responded to Kennedy’s request after reporting recent trips to a California League of Cities meeting and noting that she’d be traveling to Sacramento on Wednesday for Legislative Day.
“Everywhere I go, believe me, I’m there to serve you,” she said, presumably speaking to the constituency. “I’m there learning. And regardless of budget cuts or not, I’m still able to attend because this is my full-time job.
“So I do not feel threatened whatsoever.”
Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.