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County won't pay for what happens in Vegas

1/22/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The Ellis County Commission is in need of a travel policy.

All three commissioners agree to that, if for no other reason than to know how to proceed when disagreements surface.

At Monday's meeting, at least one commissioner and the county administrator had different interpretations concerning a trip request, something that would fall under a travel policy if one existed.

Commissioner Dean Haselhorst requested the county pick up a portion of the cost for a conference in Las Vegas, with his company picking up the rest of the tab. The county is looking to replace a solid waste compactor, and different ones would be on display at the conference. Chairwoman Barbara Wasinger was against the county paying a share of the costs, while Commissioner Swede Holmgren said he was in favor.

County Administrator Greg Sund said Monday it was his opinion the county would pay for a share of the costs, since he believed the majority of the commission supported it.

In the packet for the meeting, Sund included a suggested motion for a vote on the matter, but the commissioners did not vote.

"They didn't actually vote, but the majority supported it," Sund said Monday.

However, Holmgren said Tuesday he believed the commission took no action on the matter.

"I don't know that we committed one way or the other," he said. "I don't share Greg's opinion."

Haselhorst did not enter the discussion about his request, other than to give an estimate of how much he thought the county would have to pay ($700 he thought Monday, but down to $400 Tuesday). Haselhorst added he planned to recuse himself if it came to a vote. After Wasinger and Holmgren staked out their positions, Haselhorst said he had no problem paying for the trip himself if he decides to go, and not bill the county.

Haselhorst said Tuesday he wasn't sure where the commission stood on the issue of his request, which is a moot point now since he won't seek reimbursement.

"I really don't know where it ended up at," he said. "I guess it just ended up no decision.

"I think until we have a travel policy, it was kind of left wide open. There really wasn't a decision either way."

Although the agenda had a suggested motion for a vote attached to the request, Wasinger viewed it merely as a discussion item. For her, it was an opportunity to talk about the need for a travel policy.

"The biggest reason why I didn't go into a vote was that there is not a travel policy," she said. "It was a matter of discussing it with our fellow commissioners, (let them) know what my thoughts were."

Sund said Tuesday it's preferable to have a vote on issues.

"It's not as clear as it would be with a motion," he said of the commissioners just discussing an issue. "That's obvious."

Wasinger said the result would be the same, either through discussion or by vote: She would oppose, Holmgren would be in favor and Haselhorst would recuse himself.

Wasinger said a vote "probably" would make the issue clearer but added, "we would still be in the same boat" with a 1-1 split and one recusal.

Commissioners also discussed the possibility of sending a commissioner on a trip to China proposed by the city of Hays. That agenda item also had a suggested motion attached to it. The three commissioners were in agreement not to go on the trip. They did not vote on that agenda item, either.

Big picture, Wasinger said, the county needs a travel policy.

"I think this was the perfect time to bring it up," she said. "We need a travel policy."