Photo: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

The Clayton Crescent has obtained a copy of Clayton County’s proposed travel policy through an Open Records Request. At the June 6 pre-meeting, commissioners heard a Finance Department presentation on changes that would take effect once the board votes on the proposed policy.

The proposed changes come after an audit by Mauldin and Jenkins found some polices were too strict, while others were too loose.

Here is the full text of the draft policy, which states, “Travelers are expected to exercise good stewardship of funds when traveling on official business. Any expenditure disallowed by the County is the responsibility of the Traveler.”

The new policy seeks to enhance checks and balances for submitting expenses and booking hotels and flights. A series of online forms, which were part of the Open Records Request, will require county employees to submit requests electronically. A county official said that those forms would be released once they are approved.

Each traveler is “responsible for their own expense reports.” While the traveler can designate someone else to create a travel expense report—say, a commissioner has a constituent aide do it— “the Traveler or designee who incurred the expense, however, must personally submit the expense for routing to the appropriate approver by logging into the County’s Munis system and submitting and releasing the expense claim.”

Anyone who tries to game the system could face criminal charges: “A Traveler who knowingly presents a false or fraudulent claim may be subject to penalties under criminal statutes and up to Termination.”

Detailed receipts for expenses outside of the alloted per diem (daily) allowance must be electronically submitted through MUNIS. That includes things like airfare, baggage fees, hotel, registration fees, rental cars, gasoline, tolls, non-per-diem meals, rideshares, rail, public transportation, shuttles, taxis, airport vans, and parking. Gasoline for county or rental cars also requires detailed reporting—not just a receipt with a dollar amount. Toll lane use requires pre-approval.

In addition, inmate meals (when inmates are being transported from the Clayton County Jail or Clayton County Correctional Institute to some other location, for example) must be accounted for in detail: “Travelers on inmate extradition trips may get an advance of $20 for the inmate’s meal. A receipt for the meal must be attached electronically to the claim upon return. In the event that the receipt is for less than the advance, the traveler would be required to pay back the difference.” In other words, you can’t allot $20 to an inmate meal, spend $5, and pocket $15. You have to give the county back its $15.

Any leftover advance money must be turned in within 14 days after the event. Otherwise, the chief financial officer will send the employee a letter and the money will be deducted from the employee’s next paycheck.

The county also will not pay for more than one checked bag, nor will it pay for curbside check-in, nor will it pay for airline or travel club membership expenses. Rental car reservations must be booked with vendors that are contracted with the county. The policy also forbids taking a personal side trip on the county’s nickel—for example, “Traveling to St. Simon’s Island when lodging/business function is located on Jekyll Island.”

County employees will not be allowed to play fast and loose with mileage reimbursements under the new policy, such as charging the county for the commute from home to work. The county will not reimburse expenses for assigned vehicles—no putting in for gasoline reimbursements for that county car, for example.

We’ll follow up with any changes to the proposed policy and the final version.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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