When Anniston Metropolis Council members voted final month to censure Councilman Ben Little for exceeding his journey funds, they have been revisiting a battle which through the years which has had no clear decision — at the very least partly as a result of no penalty exists for its violation.
The council’s journey coverage, adopted in Could 2018 by all 5 members of the present council, says nothing concerning the council or its particular person members overspending in that class.
The subject has been a frequent level of rivalry for the present and previous incarnations of the council, with the latest shouting match going down in the course of the physique’s assembly Dec. 18, when Councilwoman Millie Harris added a decision to the agenda admonishing Little for going $1,113 over his $5,000 funds by means of the fiscal yr, which ended Sept. 30 final yr. The entire funds was $25,000, divided among the many council’s 5 members, together with Anniston Mayor Jack Draper; Little was the one member to overspend.
However that’s simply the latest battle over the funds. The difficulty spans greater than a decade of the Anniston governing physique’s historical past. Metropolis Supervisor Jay Johnson stated there’s no overspending coverage as a result of it’s tough to take disciplinary motion in opposition to elected officers. The censure on Dec. 18, he stated, was the tip of the problem, at the very least for now.
“There’s been no additional dialogue,” Johnson stated.
He stated that in his understanding, previous practices in coping with overdrawn budgets has been “in all places.”
“I do know of 1 occasion the place one member went over and paid again the overage quantity, I’m conscious of one other occasion the place a member went over and everyone simply stated, ‘OK,’ after which this yr with Mr. Little, there was a problem fabricated from it,” Johnson stated.
Councilman Jay Jenkins stated the council is obligated to remain inside funds — he was as soon as over his journey funds by about $700, an quantity he reimbursed to town from his private accounts, he stated — and it wants tips about dealing with the issue.
“I feel this highlights the necessity for some sort of formal coverage on the problem,” Jenkins stated.
Anniston’s journey funds has serpentined between high and low quantities during the last decade, and a few council members have had issue adhering to it.
In August 2017, Jenkins recommended reducing journey bills fully, in keeping with assembly protection on the time (Jenkins stated Friday that he believed the assertion was made as an instance some extent, somewhat than minimize funding). The council agreed to drop from $7,000 again right down to $5,000 throughout that assembly. Interim Metropolis Supervisor Cory Salley stated at the moment that the council appears at its funds as a complete, wherein one member can go over funds and one other go beneath, and steadiness one another out. Little’s line of reasoning is similar, he defined Friday.
“The journey funds for the council is just not overrun,” Little stated.
He stated in the course of the Dec. 18 assembly that he wasn’t knowledgeable that he had gone over his funds till he was censured that evening. Nevertheless, Johnson offered an e-mail he despatched to Little Nov. 19 that warned him of his overdrawn funds; within the e-mail, Johnson stated “all bills seem like eligible prices,” together with three conferences: a Nationwide League of Cities conferences in Charlotte and Washington, D.C., and a league gathering in Florida for black elected officers.
When requested, Little stated the e-mail didn’t quantity to an official discover of his funds’s situation. He stated that ought to have come from town’s monetary director. When pressed, Little did say “I received it and responded to (Johnson) and defined what passed off.”
He additionally stated in the course of the Dec. 18 assembly that he made expenses in late 2017 that put him over funds this yr, that ought to have been on the prior yr’s abstract. Nevertheless, he was solely $785 from his whole that yr; if the extra $1,113 got here from the prior yr, he would have nonetheless damaged his funds by $328. Little’s spending was $6,215 that yr, about the identical as his spending within the 2018 fiscal yr, however with the next funds of $7,000 per council member.
Each council member agreed that the journey fund is a vital instrument for managing town. Makes an attempt to succeed in Draper have been unsuccessful Friday.
Jenkins stated that he introduced again a plan to create the Rocky Hole Neighborhood Affiliation from an NLC conference, the place members of an identical affiliation from Kansas Metropolis gave a presentation on pushing again crime. He stated that he made contact with representatives of Finest Western six years in the past at an Worldwide Council of Purchasing Facilities convention that will flip right into a downtown resort, although the mission has confronted latest difficulties.
“Whereas a number of the gamers have modified, the dialog has continued,” Jenkins stated.
Councilman David Reddick stated that journey to conferences turns into native worth for Anniston residents, with council members studying from different municipalities methods to deal with issues which have already been solved elsewhere. He stated that in flip, he’s in a position to share Anniston’s practices and have an effect on change on a big scale.
“We go to those issues and set coverage that impacts the entire nation,” he stated.
Harris stated that she believes the $5,000 funds is an affordable quantity that enables for any council member to go to 2 conferences per yr. Each Reddick and Littleattended three; the extra convention is the one for black elected officers, which they each stated is an additional expense that white friends on the council wouldn’t incur.
Harris didn’t spend any of her journey funds by means of 2018 in keeping with town’s journey expense varieties, and when requested if that meant town was lacking any worth from her not attending conferences, she stated the cash goes again to the final fund.
“And we actually, really have to put cash into our reserves,” she stated.
She agreed that the conferences are useful “if we’ve received an issue that has been resolved elsewhere, in order to not reinvent the wheel,” however she stated that a lot of the identical information will be researched on the web without cost.
“A few of it’s a waste,” she stated.
Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.