Commission fails to OK convention travel
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 08, 2014 | 1467 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Walker County Commission declined to approve travel expenses on Monday for two individuals to attend the annual convention of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

Tax auditor Susan Russell and District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright had requested to attend the ACCA convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 19-21 in Orange Beach.

The estimated cost of the travel was a conference fee of $185 for Wright and $1,427 for registration, lodging, meals and mileage for Russell.

“I’m not going to have a relaxing trip. I want to go and keep informed. The only way we can run this county is to stay informed. Every year they change the laws down in Montgomery, and this is where we learn about that stuff,” Wright said.

It was the second time that travel for Russell and Wright failed to receive approval since commissioners voted June 5 to require all travel requests for commissioners, engineers, administrators and staff to come before the board.

Commissioners did not grant Chairman Billy Luster’s request to have the issue added to the agenda during the June 16 meeting.

On Monday, Wright’s motions to vote on the travel died for lack of a second from commissioners Bobby Nunnelley and Steven Aderholt. Commissioner Keith Davis was not in attendance due to illness.

“That shows you where Walker County is going. We’ll be one of the less educated counties in the state in the next couple of years,” Wright said after the motions died.

In his introduction of the travel request, Luster clarified that Russell’s credentials would not be in jeopardy if she does not attend the convention but said the continuing education courses would be useful to her.

“There are changes from time to time in procedures, and I’m sure they will spend some time on that,” Luster said.

Aderholt, who proposed the resolution last month that changed how travel gets approved, said he had not been presented with enough evidence to approve the travel.

“I’m not aware of any necessity or benefit from attending. No case has been made to me as far as I know for a reason to go,” Aderholt said. “I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars to travel where there is no need to.”

Nunnelley said he shares Aderholt’s concern about saving taxpayer dollars.

“We’re just trying to cut down on expenses. We have had to cut some budgets, and we’ve got to get some other things down to save more money,” Nunnelley said.

Wright said he will be attending the convention at his own expense and pointed out several classes on the agenda that are of interest to him, including a breakout session on the liability of housing city inmates in county jails.

“Right now the city of Jasper is wanting us to do this, and we need to know what the liabilities are. But if you don’t go to this stuff, then you don’t learn it,” Wright said.

Aderholt said that he supports taking advantage of training opportunities but is not in favor of county officials attending every class and conference hosted by the ACCA throughout the year.

“I’m not against county travel. I think some of these events are valuable and good things to go to. However, we can spend more time going to events than we can doing county business,” he said. “If you are lacking or deficient in something, then go, but going repeatedly just to be going is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

Commissioners did unanimously approve travel for chief administrator Cheryl Ganey to attend a County Government Education Institute training in Prattville July 23 and 24. The anticipated cost of that trip is $432.