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Policy would not limit officials' spending

February 20, 2002

Policy would not limit officials' spending



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


A new City of Hagerstown policy on Mayor and City Council expense accounts would not limit how much each elected official can spend, but instead would identify the types of events for which the city would reimburse elected officials, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The council agreed to have city staff draft such a policy for formal approval by a council vote.

Under current city law, the mayor has a $3,000 annual expense account, and each council member has a $1,000 annual expense account.

Last week, the council agreed to eliminate the limits on their own expense accounts and adopt a policy under which the city administrator would decide what expenses of the mayor and council would be reimbursed.

The council was scheduled to vote on that new policy next week, but Councilwoman Penny May Nigh said the proposed change has not gone over well with the public.

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"We are the talk of the supermarkets," Nigh said. "They're afraid that without the caps, expense accounts could go way over."

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the expense account policy should say what kinds of expenditures will be reimbursed instead of putting a specific limit on how much can be spent.

"The citizens don't look at whether you're over the cap. They look at what you spent (the money) on," Metzner said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said attending the annual Maryland Municipal League (MML) summer conference in Ocean City, Md., costs more than $1,000, so any council member going to the conference automatically would exceed the current $1,000 limit.

"We need a policy that encourages (elected officials) to go to MML conventions," Metzner said.

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