Friday, January 16, 2009

The Case of the Ludicrous Lunch - Part 2

Oh we KNOW what the board will say...don't we?
Can you hear it now in that tone of voice that grates on you just shy of fingernails on a blackboard:

"The lunch expenses incurred by misters Frei and Keats were in accordance with board policy"

So...what does policy say? Let's first look at District policy DLC and show the board the flaws in their "policy":
The Board shall reimburse staff for actual, necessary and reasonable expenses incurred while on approved school district business.
Was the lunch actual? Sadly, yes.
Necessary? Probably not.
Reasonable? Arguable...although the board will probably publicly say that $15 is reasonable for lunch. Of course this comes from a group many of whom, were part of the $42 per head steak dinner last January.
Daily reimbursements for meals will not exceed $35 in-state and $45 out-of-state.
Someone wishing to abuse this could read this as saying if you're traveling and have lunch (or even breakfast), you can spend up to $35 just for that one meal!!!! We think (hope???) that this was not the board's intent....although the board was encouraged repeatedly to establish PER MEAL allowances such as those that are in place for all state employees. (Hint, Hint).

The State Office of Employee Relations establishes per meal maxima as:
Breakfast $ 8.00 ___($10.00 out-of-state)
Lunch $ 9.00___($10.00 out-of-state)
Dinner $17.00___($20.00 out-of-state)
Pocket Travel Guide 2007-09 (eff. July 1, 2008)

Now these are REASONABLE maxima. And all state employees are subject to these limits. Would state employees like to spend $15 for a lunch? Sure...some of them might. But come on! The majority of NORMAL people do not spend $15 when they go out for lunch during a workday....unless someone else is paying for it of course. Hmmmmmm. We're just sayin'!
The District expects each employee will exercise good judgment regarding expenses and will comply with all Board policies.
Ahhh..."exercise good judgement". Now THAT's not the least bit subjective, is it? Another classic example of making weak policy by including subjectivity...or as we call it..."weasel words". Can your hear Frei and Keats now? "In our good judgement, after the long drive to Sheboygan, we felt that a $15 lunch was in order."

We also love the "The District expects..." intro. Like we "expect" out elected leaders to vote according to what we who elected them want, not what they personally want. Like we "expect" kids to behave on buses. Like we would expect that elected officials would most certainly not be in arrears on something like property taxes. Newsflash, board members: expectations only lead to disappointment.

As a precondition of reimbursement, detailed receipts must be submitted with claims.
Well, now...isn't that special. At least we get to see the documentation. We'll just have to make a public records request to find out what kind of lunch the taxpayers paid for. Inquiring minds want to know.

One last bit of food for thought for you board members. We know you like maybe you'll be interested in some food for thought

The Office of State Employee Relations also makes the following stipulations:
  • To be allowed reimbursement for breakfast, the employee must leave home before 6:00 a.m.; lunch, departure must be before 10:30 a.m. and return after 2:30 p.m.; dinner, return must be after 7:00 p.m. These time frames are for employees working standard hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. These time frames may be modified for employees working varied work schedules.
  • On any particular day an employee is entitled to reimbursement for two or more consecutive meals, the maximum amount for one or more meals may be exceeded and the employee may claim the actual amount spent for each meal as long as the total amount claimed for the eligible meals is not greater than the combined maximum reimbursement rate for those meals. If meal maximums are not reached on one day, the excess amount does not accrue and cannot be applied to meals on another day
Contracts vary slightly, but most contracts also specify that meals are not reimbursable if travel is within a certain mile radius (25 miles for many) of an employee's "home city". This would be a nice addition to policy, and would prevent many of the meals that taxpayers question.

[SP-EYE: We hate to keep bring this stuff up, but we know that it bugs the heck out of many district residents who just won't speak up to the board. So...if the board won't change it's practices, then we'll just have to keep the pressure on them by highlighting their ridiculous spending and sense of entitlement in a public forum for God and everyone to see. We simply cannot WAIT to see where they'll be dining at the conference coming up and see if they'll surpass last year's folly! ]