Canton council talks meal reimbursement
by Erin Dentmon
November 07, 2012 12:26 AM | 1457 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Canton City Council hashed over changes to reimbursements for meal expenses and committee appointments at last Thursday’s work session.

The city’s policy on meal reimbursements now gives the mayor, council members, city manager and other employees a $38 per day allowance for meal expenditures while traveling on city business. The proposed change to the policy would bring the total allowed expenditures to $42 per day.

If the city council approves the change, employees will be allowed $8 instead of $7 for breakfasts and $14 instead of $11 for lunches while traveling. The dinner allowance will remain the same at $20.

The proposed change also seeks to strike part of the policy that states local business meals should always include a third party in order to be reimbursable.

“I have no problems with changing the amounts. These look reasonable. The problem I have is with the second half, allowing local meals to be reimbursed with just local officials and department heads,” City Council Member Glen Cummins said.

“I just don’t see why we couldn’t meet at City Hall, not during the lunch hour,” Mayor Gene Hobgood said.

Council Member Bob Rush requested that the change in the local meal policy be separated from the change in the travel meals policy before the council votes at its next meeting.

The city council also started discussions about the process of naming council members to council committees.

The city’s charter allows the mayor to appoint council members to such committees without approval by a council vote. Council Member Hooky Huffman, who was not present at the meeting, had suggested possibly amending the charter to require council approval for council committee nominations.

As written, the city’s code requires council approval, but officials say the city’s charter should override the code.

Cummins said he felt bringing charter changes to the council individually undermines the importance of the charter.

“I think (the changing process) should be more deliberate than bringing things to council one at a time,” Cummins said.

A 15-member community committee spent about two years reviewing the city charter, Hobgood said. The committee finished its work in April.

Hobgood said appointing council committees is one of the only powers the city’s mayor has that doesn’t require council approval.

“I would hate to see that changed,” he said, adding that he feels changes to the charter should be reviewed more carefully.

“Dealing with the charter on a frequent basis tends to cheapen or lessen the importance of the charter. No council committee can make a final decision anyway. I think this is contrary to good practice, and it may not be in a good legal position,” he said.

The issue will be discussed again at the council’s Nov. 15 meeting.
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