St. Martin Parish travel budget drained
A contentious exchange in Tuesday night’s Parish Council meeting resulted from an agenda item introduced by District 9 Councilman Dean Doré on the subject of travel expenses.
Doré’s item addressed what he considers to be excessive travel spending by some council members whose involvement in state and national organizations has caused them to require more than their share of this limited budget.
District 7 Councilman Craig Gregory is a member and vice-chairman of NACo, the National Association of Counties, and a member of black leadership organizations. Chairperson Lisa Nelson of District 2 felt herself under fire as well. Nelson is president of the state Police Jury Association.
Both members made the case that their involvement in these organizations has brought many benefits to the parish and that the travel budget needed updating to reflect current costs. Nelson compared the travel budget with other area parishes, many of which have no limits on travel expenses for councilors. She made the case that the per diem allowed for out of town expenses was out of date at $60 in state and $75 out of state.
Travel expense reports from the council for the first nine months of the current fiscal year show that Gregory’s attendance of NACo meetings has accounted for about 60 percent of all travel expense by the council, with the travel budget for the year nearly depleted. To be clear, there is no allegation of wrongdoing but only questions about equity between council members and the cost-versus-value to the parish.
Doré referred to a draft proposal to be introduced which would provide for a more equal division of travel funds. District 5 Councilman Clay Courville suggested that parish voters would probably not approve raising the budget when money might be better used for other needs in the parish. District 1 Councilman Carrol Delahoussaye also said an increase was far from certain.
Parish legal advisor Chester Ceders expressed confidence that Doré’s proposal and one to be drawn by Nelson could be reconciled in a satisfactory manner.