Green defends election office travel
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Jun 22, 2014 | 1321 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After asking for a $500 increase in the Bradley County Elections Commission travel budget, Bradley County Elections Administrator Fran Green explained why she, members of her staff and Bradley County Elections commissioners attended out-of-town meetings where she was the only person required by law to attend.

Not all of the commissioners, nor office staff attend every meeting of the East Tennessee Association of County Election Officials (ETACEO) or the Tennessee Association of County Election Officials (TACEO) seminars, according to Green.

Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones raised the question during a work session Monday regarding an increase in funding the travel budget for the Election Commission.

“I am the only one required by law to attend, but will take office staff and any commissioners who may want to go if we can afford it,” Green explained.

According to reports, the Elections Commission travel budget was $8,399 in 2012-2013.

Green had asked for an increase in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. County Mayor D. Gary Davis’ proposal was to keep the budget at $8,000.

“We were asking for the increase due to possible fuel hikes or anything else related to travel,” Green explained.

“The reason office staff and commissioners attend the seminars is so we can all stay on the same page regarding changes in the election laws and other issues.

A trip earlier this month cost the Elections Commission $4,094. A refund is forthcoming due to the fact two commissioners didn’t make the ETACEO Law Seminar, which was held in Nashville.

According to Green, the rooms at the Opryland Hotel were booked in November, immediately after learning where the seminar was to be held.

The hotel was the anchor point for the seminar, according to Green.

The seminars typically last three days.

Green said meal expenses are kept to a minimum because the association typically provides food.

Green said the TACEO has voted recently to hold all future meetings in Nashville, which will help cut expenses.

Representatives from 95 counties in Tennessee attend.

Green said an average of five people per county attending will fill a hotel quickly. Seasonal rates are also applicable.

The 2009-10 travel budget was $10,925.

That year, TACEO held its meeting in Memphis.

“We book the anchor hotel as soon as we can due to the fact other events may be happening the same time as our seminar, making it difficult to find lodging,” Green said.

The Country Music Festival was also happening at the same time as the seminar, according to reports.

Safety and security is another reason the commissioners and staff attempt to stay at the anchor hotels, according to Green.

“The Election Commissioners approve the hotel prior to the trip,” she said.

Commission chair Theba Hamilton, secretary Oscar Kelley, commissioner Dana Burgner and two of Green’s office staff made the trip.

Commissioners Duane Gilbert and Travis Henry were unable to make the trip.

“They also approve any reimbursement for travel expenses such as fuel,” Green added.

During the most recent trip, eight rooms were booked.

The expenses included parking and taxes.

Event registrations plus membership dues are also listed in the accounting report.

A future fall Regional Seminar has been booked and Music Road Hotel is the anchor hotel.

Rooms were booked at $92.24 per night, according to Green.

“The association chooses the location of each seminar and that is where we move quickly to book our stay,” she added.

According to Green, commissioners and staff carpool to reach their destination.

Green said the commission and staff have lodged at other hotels rather than the anchor hotel in the past due to the fact the rooms are booked quickly.

Peak-Jones had raised the question why they did not search for lower cost in lodging.

According to Green, the expense for each room was $149 plus tax per night.

The next meeting of the Bradley County Elections Commission will be held July 7.