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Director pushing policy regulating travel expenses

April 26, 2001

regulation

By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Citing a need to regulate the travel expenses of the Imperial Irrigation District board, President Andy Horne has taken the first step toward asking the board to adopt such a policy.

On Tuesday, Horne presented a sample policy to the board for its review. While the board took no action, the matter could face a vote during the board's first meeting in May.

Horne said IID has no policy governing travel expenses of directors and said it is time to set a "single standard."

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IID does have a policy regulating the expenses of IID staffers.

While Horne said he is not suggesting there have been abuses by current or past boards, he said the directors need to take an action to assure they comply with state water codes.

Director Stella Mendoza agreed.

"We need some kind of accountability," she said, adding she would support Horne in his call for an expense policy.

As part of the draft policy, Horne suggested each board member come up with an individual budget based on anticipated travel expenses for the year.

As part of the reimbursement process, directors would be required to submit in writing the purpose of the trip.

If directors went over their budgets or expected to do so, they would have to submit their request for more funds to the full board.

Director Bruce Kuhn said he is not against such a policy but said it would be difficult for board members to set individual budgets.

The board operates under one travel budget for the year. That budget allots the board about $73,200. The board has spent $34,566.

Mendoza said she thinks it would be possible for each director to establish an individual budget.

Horne said he is willing to revise that portion of the policy, adding it may not be necessary to set individual budgets.

He added the goal simply is "to place some budgetary controls on directors' travel expense which today we do not have."

Director Lloyd Allen said he has some concerns about such a policy. He agreed with Kuhn it could be difficult for directors to set individual budgets.

Allen said this year he has had to take at least five trips to areas to represent IID at meetings that he did not expect to take.

Still, Allen said if the policy is simple enough so it does not hinder travel to important meetings, he might support the policy.

"Travel has become a way of life for the district because of all the issues," Allen said, adding, "It is just a necessity we have."

He said there are those in other areas with an interest in tapping into this area's water supply. He said IID directors have to travel to defend local water rights.

Allen added the issue over state total maximum daily load regulations, which would limit the silt and sediment in local waterways, adding costs to farmers, is another issue that might force directors to travel in defense of the Valley.

Director Rudy Maldonado said he would be willing to support such a policy. He said when the issue was first suggested by Horne months earlier he had concerns travel would be hindered by such a policy.

However, Maldonado said in more recent conversations with Horne, he has found that such a policy would not prevent board members from taking trips they thought were in the best interest of IID and the community.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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