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District U-46 approves new travel guidelines


By Seth Hancock
  At its meeting on Monday, Sept. 26 the Board of Education in School District U-46 unanimously approved, by a 7-0 vote, the district’s travel guidelines to comply with new state law.
  The guidelines address the procedures for the district to follow when paying for or reimbursing district staff for travel-related expenses, but also for board members. It comes in response to recent passage of the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act.
  Jeff King, chief operations officer, said a change to the first page of the guidelines states that “any expenditure of the board has to be approved by a roll-call vote of the board.”
  Board members have used taxpayer money for travel to conferences but with no public discussions in the past. The public will now be made fully aware of any travel at the taxpayers’ expense that board members take.
  From a Freedom of Information Act request, The Examiner received 400 pages of information on board member travel over five years which included locations such as Albuquerque, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco.
  Board members weren’t shy in some instances on spending taxpayer money such as former board member Maria Bidelman spending over $68 on a meal in San Diego. On a 2012 trip to Boston, former board member Dale Spencer purchased his airfare from priceline.com which advertised hotel rooms from $50-132 a night, but he instead spent $219 a night at the Seaport Hotel.
  Regarding that same Boston trip, Spencer asked if he could be reimbursed for an extra day but was told he couldn’t because the board would have to vote in open session which would then have made the trip public.
  It wasn’t just board members but also family members such as a 2014 trip to Milwaukee in which Donna Smith, the board’s current president, had six people in her party at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Linda Campos-Moreira, who was unelected and served only a year as an appointment, brought along her husband. Taxpayers paid for registration fees to a conference for two unelected people as Campos-Moreira’s husband also attended that conference.
  On Sept. 12 when the new guidelines were presented, King said that U-46 already had the guidelines in place but this update was needed for compliance with the new law.

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