HOLBROOK — The Navajo County Board of Supervisors has approved a long list of changes in its travel policy in the wake of the indictment of the former health director on the misuse of public funds.
The supervisors, without discussion, last week approved a host of changes recommended by the state auditor general on the consent calendar. The board has not publicly discussed the auditor general’s report that led to the indictment of former Health Director Jeff Lee in connection with the alleged misspending of $90,000 on credit cards issued by Navajo and Coconino counties over a seven-year period.
Lee was indicted on 16 felony counts for using county credit cards to pay for gift cards, Christmas gifts, hotels, meals and other expenses. The auditor listed a host of problems, including the county’s failure to oversee his credit card use, a lack of receipts, false explanations for items purchased, a lack of oversight and approvals as well as other problems. Lee repaid some of the questioned charges and said that for many of the items he mistakenly used the county credit card instead of his own credit card.
The alleged misspending was discovered by the auditor general’s office, which started out investigating Lee’s spending when he was at Coconino County. The alleged misspending at Navajo County went back for several years and was not detected by the county’s own review processes.
The extensive changes in the travel policy mostly spell out limits on travel spending as well as who has the authority to approve travel by county employees.
Human Resources Director Eric Scott noted in the memo introducing the changes that “through Navajo County’s recent audit, it became apparent that our travel policy needed some revising and updates. Some of the updates include travel request, per diem process and receipt requirements.”
Among the changes:
• Elected officials, department directors or their designees must authorize travel before the employee takes the trip.
• County purchasing cards should be used to pay for the expenses of only the county official on the trip.
• The county manager, assistant manager, department director or elected official must approve payment of any hotel bill in excess of the maximum travel rate.
• Employees should use a county vehicle for travel “when practical.”
• Airfare credit for a cancelled trip should be used on the very next trip.
• Only designated administrators can issue a cash advance for travel expenses.
• Meal expenses must be limited to the per diem amount and then only for employees in “authorized travel status.”
• Employees need not provide receipts for meals so long as they remain below the per diem maximum. Any receipts submitted must be itemized and are subject to the breakfast, lunch and dinner rates.
• Employees can collect only 75% of the per diem meal amount on the first and last day of travel.
• Employees must submit requests for reimbursement within 60 days of traveling. Any reimbursement after that period counts as income for the employee, who must also return any excess payments within 120 days.
• Employees can’t seek payment for in-room movies, alcohol and personal entertainment or other non-covered expenses.