Calhoun County Commissioner Darrell McDougald (district 2) offers the following response to last week’s “Your Money” article regarding fuel and travel expenses for county employee Sonny O’Bryan. Next week, we will follow up with comments from the other commissioners, plus more details on this budgetary item.
In response to your article in the September 5, 2012, County Record, I have conducted an investigation into the matter. First, I would like to thank The County Record for being mostly factual with the information contained in your article. I have only a few comparative differences that I believe to be more accurate.
All five County Commissioners sign all vouchers, including travel vouchers, that are presented at each commissioners meeting. There are quite a few of these and some are, at times, complex. These vouchers are prepared by a staff of accounting personnel who painstakingly prepare this information in an effort to make it easy to review. I would like to thank them for their diligence in this because it makes my job easier. I assume full responsibility for everything that I sign as I am sure do the other Commissioners.
Lets begin with the math, I felt that Mr. O'Bryan needed to verify that he actually drives 40,000 miles per year. His truck is a 2007 GMC. I asked him to allow me access to verify to odometer reading. I noted that the odometer reading was 190,000 miles. I asked the accounting department to also look at the 2011 travel expense budget. Mr. O'Bryan's travel budget request was for 32,000 miles. To review travel expenses for prior years would have taken some time to do and I felt that I had adequate information. This is public records if anyone feels the need to pursue this further. When you do the math using these numbers you are close to 190,000 miles that are factually verifiable I.e 32,000 to 40,000 miles x 5 years.
Mr. O'Bryan certainly uses his truck for personal use. He has other vehicles and I have verified with witnesses, including myself, that he has used them for county business also. The 32 to 40,000 miles allow a little room for personal use. To go any further with this seems to be trivial.
40,000 miles per year or 156 miles per day (your numbers) may seem like a lot of unnecessary driving. However, I have been very surprised that I drive approximately 15,000 per year in the course of performing my duties as Commissioner. ( non-reimbursable, of course).
I believe a fair comparison to miles necessarily driven would be that of our Preble Rish engineer that checks on the same roads as Mr. O'Bryan. This engineer revealed to me that he drives 40,000 miles per year.
A comparison to Liberty County Road department would not be equitable in that we undertake considerably more road projects than does Liberty County road department.
When you have multiple projects going on in five different districts at once, Calhoun County benefits with these projects being checked on frequently. If you travel from job to job as little as two times per day, 156 miles per day would not be excessive.
In an effort to save fuel, at my non-reimbursable expense, I have ridden with Mr. O'Bryan, Joe Wood, Bill Adkins as well as Preble Rish Engineers a number of times. I have also witnessed all of them doing the same.
In my previous business, I was allowed by the I.R.S. to deduct a percentage of my truck miles for business expenses. I was audited by the I.R.S. at one point and the auditor had me write down the business trips that I drove as compared to personal miles driven for a one month period of time. This information was used for a basis to calculate the miles for the remainder of the year. I believe that the Clerk's method of three months documentation is acceptable in as much as it is acceptable to the I.R.S. Mr. O'Bryan and I agree that if you are required to document every mile driven that it is severely distracting to your job.
Some Accountants agree that it may be better to pay mileage than to pay for a company vehicle I would think that it is better to furnish the vehicle.
The past County Commissioners decided that some employees were more prone to scrutiny than others and thought it best to pay mileage in certain circumstances.
All of the information that I have given here is verifiable, and I will be glad to reveal sources, verify, or discuss this matter. I am available to anyone to discuss any of your concerns.