- Real Estate
- Paris Flash
The Paris Economic Development Corporation board, at a special called meeting Tuesday, tentatively approved proposed operating policies and procedures aimed at providing better documentation of expenses, travel and entertainment.
Two of the board’s five directors — Bruce Carr and Vicki Ballard — fashioned the guidelines at the behest of PEDC chairwoman Rebecca Clifford following recent criticism that grew out of a former city councilman’s Open Records request of PEDC credit card receipts..
Bill Strathern accused the PEDC of spending exorbitant sums on economic development trips and said receipts seldom showed who was wined and dined, or why.
Carr and Ballard recommended that any invoice for travel or entertainment must include who was present, the purpose of the expense and benefits received from the trip or event.
“Bruce and I both met with more than a dozen company business owners and managers about their procedures,” Ballard said. “This sin’t something that we just pulled out of the air. This is something that we put a lot of thought into.”
Carr said the report borrows heavily on practices that he and Ballard observed while visiting with some of the larger local firms.
“There are some fairly significant changes that we’re proposing,” Carr said at the start of a presentation that lasted about an hour.
“The proposal here is to add these to the personnel handbook, either at the beginning or the end, and we’ll have one document that contains all the processes and procedures, as well as our personnel handbook,” Carr said.
Carr identified 16 areas that the policies will cover. Tuesday, Carr spent about an hour going over the eight that he and Ballard have reviewed with the PEDC staff so far.
Along the way, Carr asked for questions or comments. At the end of his presentation, he made notations of changes he said he would make and bring back for a vote at the PEDC’s regular October meeting next Tuesday.
Among those on hand for the special called meeting besides Executive Director Steve Gilbert and Assistant Executive Director Shannon Barrentine were the two other PEDC members, Toni Clem and David Turner; Mayor AJ Hashmi; City Councilman John Wright; City Councilman Matt Frierson; County Judge Chuck Superville; Lamar County Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Cook; and a number of citizens.
Carr had recommendations for policies in eight categories:
Here were the key points:
CREDIT CARDS — Credit Cards have been used for “an array of different things,” but Carr said from now on it will be used mainly for travel and entertainment, not for purchases. Only two credit cards will be issued, to the executive director and assistant executive director. Credit card vouchers for travel and entertainment, along with abbeviated charge forms will be filed by month and readily available for audit. Any unauthorized charges must be repaid by the card holder.
AUTHORIZED SPENDING LEVELS — The executive director will have the authority to spend up to $2,000 per transaction, with the exception of travel, which will have a limit of $1,000. The $2,000 limit is a $5,500 reduction from his current authority to spend $7,500. The assistant executive director will have authority to spend $250, and the PEDC chairperson will have authority to spend $5,000. Any proposed spending over $5,000 will have to be authorized by the PEDC board. Annually reoccurring expenses identified and approved in the budget will not be subject to these authorization levels.
TRAVEL — Travel for which the PEDC is bearing the expense and infolves more than one person will require pre-approval by a board member not traveling in the party. The PEDC will absorb all reasonable and normal travel expenses for those traveling. Any upgrades for airlines, hotels and car rental will be born by the traveler. Allowance for meals must fall within the IRS guidelines. If travel involves a day trip, meals will not be reimbursed unless the travel exceeds normal work hours.
ENTERTAINMENT — In conducting PEDC business, “it is customary to entertain prospects, site selectors, real estate developers, consultants and other associated with recruiting industry to a community,” Carr said. Additionally, from time to time dignitaries and company officials may visit the community to explore opportunities or wish to recognize local industrial development achievements. “The purpose of the event generally will dictate local participation.That said, care should be taken tolimit local participation to those needed to assess the value of the prospect or move it forward, those that may have a unique background ont he project’s scope, those intimately involved in the
achievement, or those local dignitaries, officials and persons who form the face of the community.” The executive director, in consultation with the PEDC chairperson, will determine the participants. An entertainment expense form must be completed within five business days, and a board member not participating in the event must sign off on the expense if it exceeds $250. Whether spur-of-the-moment or advance-planned, care should be given to keeping expenses reasonable.
DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY — Levels of spending cannot be delegated on the organizational chart for the staff. In the absence of the executive director, the chairpersonor their designee on the board may sign or authorize all documents or transactions under the authority delegate to the executive director. “Since we have prescribed levels of spending, and we have prescribed authorization levels, if someone is away, even if it’s for a day, you need to delegate those authorities, using the Delegation of Authority Form.”
DEVELOPING PROSPECT PROPOSALS – Recruiting industrial prospects and retaining existing industry “are the core of what the PEDC is tasked with accomplishing,” Carr said. “While time is not always the ally of the staff or the board, it is essential to maintain a process that provides expediency and maintains consistency andthoroughness yet stays within the community’s fiscal capability to compete.” In other words, some proposals are not in the community’s best interest to pursue. For those proposals worth the PEDC’s interest, the executive director should 1) notify the board members verbally or electronically of the prospect and circulate the form “Prospect Profile”; 2) Call a meeting of the board for authority (in executive session) to proceed with the proposal; 3) with consensus from the board, prepare a formal proposal and submit it to the client; 4) with the board, develop a policy for criteria and incentives.
AUDITING OPERATIONS — In addition to the audit conducted annually by an outside auditor, the chairperson has the authority to form a committee to do a compliance audit once or twice a year “to insure compliance with PEDC processes and procedures, and to provide guidance in the event the PEDC needs to redirect its actions, modify its process and procedures, to affirm that the organization is on a fiscally responsible path, and to bring board members closer to the mechanics of operating an EDC.”
PETTY CASH — The purpose of the petty cash fund should be to purchase minor incidental items imperative to doing daily business. The petty cash fund should hold $300. All expenditures using the fund should be well-documented. All receipts should be kept along with a purpose for each expense. Petty cash should not be used for civic organization dues, or other items of a personal matter.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra