The Bellevue City Council unanimously approved a new policy Monday aimed at preventing city employees from taking unlimited trips to out-of-town conventions and seminars at taxpayer expense.
Before taking action, the council agreed that the policy also would apply to City Administrator Dan Berlowitz and his assistant city administrator, who has not yet been hired.
Berlowitz had wanted the council to exempt his position and the newly created position of assistant administrator. But council members were united in their agreement that the new policy should apply to everyone, with no exceptions.
Under the new policy, the city will pay for no more than four trips per employee for conferences, training or other city business during a budget cycle.
“I am hopeful this will raise awareness and serve its intended purpose of bringing more accountability,” said Councilman Don Preister.
Preister had pushed for the new travel policy partly because of questions about the travel of John Stacey, former police chief, who resigned this summer.
Stacey and former Gretna City Administrator Colleen Lawry took trips that overlapped in four cities around the country between August 2011 and January 2012, racking up thousands of dollars in bills charged to taxpayers.
Records showed that Stacey took 16 out-of-town trips to various police and fire conferences since 2010.
Preister said the new policy is in the best interests of the city and the taxpayers.
“I am glad this is now behind us,” he said.
Councilwoman Carol Blood said she was pleased the new policy will apply to all city employees, including Berlowitz.
“We can't have special rules for the administration and expect our staff to follow a different set of rules,” Blood said. “We're working hard to move Bellevue forward when it comes to our antiquated HR policies, and this is just another step forward.”
The new policy includes some wiggle room for unusual circumstances, Preister said. Berlowitz and other employees can request an exception to attend additional conferences and meetings.
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