Amarillo EDC drafts written spending polices
Amarillo, Texas (KVII) —
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Last July, ABC 7 first brought you the story about how the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) was spending taxpayer money with little accountability. There were no written policies on how almost $2 million was spent. Now, the AEDC has a draft copy of spending guidelines.
In the past, the AEDC has spent money on luxury hotels, high-end meals, rounds of golf at premiere courses and multiple country club memberships. There also were hand written receipts. All legitimate expenses and all paid for by you.
Taxpayers will still foot the bill for AEDC’s travel expenses but now employees must follow the guidelines laid out in a new policies and procedures manual.
"The design of these policies are heavily focused on integrity and accountability,” said Barry Albrecht, the AEDC’s president and CEO.
- The president no longer approves his own travel reimbursements. Now the board chair will.
- Any overnight travel must be pre-approved.
- Employees need to obtain the most reasonable cost for transportation and accommodations.
- Misplaced receipts will require the president's approval for reimbursement.
Plus, there is a list of ineligible expenses including hotel minibar charges and in-room movie rentals. Albrecht said only 25 percent of the policies are new.
"Things were out there in the past, but it hasn't been documented as well as it should have,” said Barry Albrecht, the AEDC President and CEO.
He also said he is taking into account that expenses come out of taxpayer pockets.
"The most recent [trip], we stayed at a Hampton Inn and asked for a government rate or a AAA rate which is cost effective more for our part because it gives us more money in our budget to do something else,” said Albrecht.
Plus, there are no more expensive memberships to any country clubs.
"It was offered,” said Albrecht. “I'm not a member of the country club. I've got things to do."
Out-going city members requested policies in August 2016 and were happy to see a draft on their final day in office.
"It's a step in the right direction,” said Randy Burkett, a former city council member. “Before hand, we just didn't have any of this. We didn't know what was going on. I’m surprised it took that long. I would have expected it in maybe four to six month, but I’m not going to complain. At least we have something now. I’m happy to see it.”
"I was very vocal about asking for those because I think it makes sense and I think it's important to use taxpayer money carefully and with accountability measures,” said Lisa Blake, a former city council member. “I’m just pleased it is done. Hopefully citizens are pleased to know their money is being well spent and with accountability.”
“It’s taken a year,” said Mark Nair, a former city council member. “At least we got something now. It’s important to have. I’ve spent the last two years trying to hold people accountable. This is another example of that.”
"I'm used to seeing a travel policy that is a little more proscriptive but it is a great first step,” said Elisha Demerson, a former city council member. “Moving forward there should be some tweaking of this document.”
The draft is 58 pages total. Four pages were dedicated to an expenditures policy that includes travel.
The AEDC board of directors will review the draft of guidelines and decide whether or not to approve it in June. Albrecht said once adopted, the policies and procedures will be updated as necessary.
Other stories in this series include:
Part 1: Getting answers from the AEDC
Part 2: How the AEDC is funded and what its oversight looks like. Also, see the full stack of receipts here.
Part 3: AEDC's odd travel expenses.
Part 4: Meal and hotel expenses.
Part 5: AEDC's country club expenses.
Part 6: Six months later, AEDC still without written policies