Covington City Council tables changing city's travel policy

COVINGTON – A decision to change the city’s travel policy was tabled during Monday’s Covington City Council meeting.

The current policy allows an employee attending a training class or conference more than 50 miles from City Hall to receive hotel accommodations at the city’s expense.

City Manager Leigh Anne Knight recommended the following two-tier travel policy:

• If a city employee attends a one-day training class/conference more than 50 miles from City Hall, the city would pay for the overnight stay;

• If an employee attends a training class/conference for more than two days which is more than 35 miles from City Hall the city would pay for accommodations.

But council members disagreed on the subject. Through a tie vote broken by Mayor Ronnie Johnston, the policy change was tabled.

Councilman Keith Dalton made the motion to delay the decision until more information could be made available. Council members Chris Smith and Michael Whatley agreed with Dalton’s request.

“We want to make sure our employees are accredited and certified, but also be sure it wouldn’t be at an extra cost to the city and taxpayers,” Johnston said at the meeting.

Dalton said in an interview Wednesday he wanted to see more than just mileage when considering a policy change.

“The only thing I saw was the travel distance. I want to know per diem and other details. If they cut down how far someone travels, it opens other expenses,” Dalton said. “If we had issues with our employees not being certified or trained, then I think we need to consider it, but that’s not the case.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Knight said all of the city’s departments have a budgeted amount for travel.

“We don’t have an excessive travel budget. Each department knows their budget and education requirements. We need to keep our employees trained and sometimes it is a multi-day class and it would be less of a burden for that person to stay overnight than to travel back and forth from Atlanta or Athens or somewhere even further,” Knight said.

Since the item was tabled, Knight said she’ll need to find out from the council members as to what more they want to know concerning the travel policy.

“At this point, it’s set aside until we find out from council what additional information they want to move forward. The current policy is not broken, but this recommendation would’ve been beneficial to employees and anyone, including council members, who have to travel to areas where they’re not used to driving.”