Board changes mileage policy

Published 4:14 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

On a split vote, supervisors in Prince Edward County approved an updated travel reimbursement policy during their Sept. 12 meeting.

Jerry R. Townsend

Farmville 101 District Supervisor Howard Simpson, Leigh District Supervisor Jerry R. Townsend and Prospect District Supervisor Calvin L. Gray voted against the new policy.

Farmville 801 District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Pattie Cooper-Jones said the purpose of the mileage policy update was to establish a uniform standard and procedure that would allow supervisors to be reimbursed for official county business.

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The approved policy cites that supervisors may be reimbursed mileage for travel by personal vehicle to scheduled board meetings, committee meetings to which a supervisor was appointed if it’s not part of routine personal travel, travel to events or places reasonably necessary to prepare for matters scheduled for consideration on the board’s agenda which is not part of routine personal travel and travel to scheduled meetings of outside organizations to which a board member has been appointed by the board to represent the county.

The policy cited that reimbursement is limited to one trip per event or place. Mileage may also be reimbursed for attendance at overnight non-local meetings when the costs exceeds $100 or attendance at meetings or committees outside the specific supervisor’s specific area of responsibility, which requires advanced board approval.

The new policy began Oct. 1.

The board voted in July to approve supervisors submitting their county-related mileage monthly instead of quarterly. Supervisors will continue to be reimbursed quarterly for their submitted mileage, which is part of the board’s meeting packet that supervisors and members of the public receive prior to each meeting.

“Me, personally, there’s nothing wrong with access. It’s public information, but monthly I think is too time consuming,” Townsend said during the July meeting. “… I understand your concern (in) making sure that people are honest and being good stewards of taxpayer money. …”

Townsend said he felt the system that was in place was working fine.

“If we need to be more detailed with the form, that’s OK, but I think submitting them monthly, that’s too time consuming,” Townsend said. “I work every day.”

Pattie Cooper-Jones

During the August board meeting, Cooper-Jones said she looked over each supervisor’s mileage report and still had questions about mileage.

“I looked over (Simpson’s) report. It is very detailed, I admit that is what it is, but I can also admit that it is not five miles from Mr. Simpson’s house to the courthouse,” Cooper-Jones said at the August meeting.

She said that for Farmville supervisors — which include Cooper-Jones, Simpson and Farmville 701 District Supervisor Jim Wilck — they have nowhere far to go except to the courthouse.

“That is the purpose of the board being paid a stipend to come to board meetings, and I don’t see why anybody has to pay, taxpayers paying extra just because we decide to ride out and look at some water and look at some trees when we can’t fix it anyway,” Cooper-Jones said. “That’s what we call the county for, they call (the Virginia Department of Transportation).”

Simpson offered no comment during the meeting regarding mileage.

“I think we are being taken advantage of,” Cooper-Jones said in August. “I’m not going to be settled until we sit down and we make an actual thing of things that you can and cannot charge to go to.”

She said supervisors can’t get paid to go to a town hall meeting.

“That’s your volunteer (time) if you want to go,” Cooper-Jones said. “If you don’t, stay home.”

During their June meeting, supervisors discussed potentially including their mileage records in their board meeting packets to inform the public.

Each supervisor submits the number of miles they have driven and the reason for each trip. In a previous interview, County Administrator Wade Bartlett said the reimbursements were dependent on what the supervisors record and present at the end of the three months.

Cooper-Jones initiated the June discussion, noting that a step in making the records more accessible would prevent abuses of the reimbursement board members receive for tracking their traveled miles.