Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

April 12, 2014

No consensus yet on per diem

TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners haven’t yet agreed on a new policy that would clarify what they could and couldn’t charge taxpayers above and beyond their regular salaries.

Commissioners for years have collected payments for attending various events and meetings. The fees, called per diems, are taxpayer-funded.

Commissioners passed language 4 to 3 at an April 9 meeting that would include ceremonial functions and meetings with constituents in commissioners’ salaries so that they can’t be billed as per diems.

An ad hoc committee came up with the proposal.

“We really wanted to come back with something that was flexible to the point where if a commissioner felt that along with their normal assignments, felt there was a meeting they should go to for educational purposes or for the need of having a commissioner there, they should get that per diem and we should not be in the position of questioning those at the level of the audit committee,” Larry Inman, the chair of the Resource Management and Administration Committee, said.

Inman asked the April 9 meeting dissenters to outline what they want in the policy, which will be discussed again before month’s end.

The language discussed on April 9 detailed that ceremonial events and meetings with constituents would be included in commissioners’ salaries, and could not count as per diems. It also allowed commissioners to decide for themselves what meetings were appropriate to charge as per diems.

Board members are reexamining the policy after three commissioners received notices that they’d been paid in error.

Commissioners Christine Maxbauer and Richard Thomas said the new policy didn’t go far enough.

“I think it should be more restrictive,” Thomas said.

Inman flirted with the idea of adding one-on-one meetings with elected officials and community leaders to activities that fall under the salary umbrella, but other commissioners dissuaded him.

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