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Dolan angered by town travel policy tweaks

A simmering personality conflict between a Pahrump Town Board member and Town Manager Susan Holecheck briefly rose to the surface during a recent discussion over the town’s travel reimbursement policy.

Holecheck brought forward a recommendation during last week’s regular board meeting identifying areas in the current policy that she would like to tweak. Bill Dolan expressed his distaste for the proposed changes in dramatic fashion.

“I know it seems like I’m the big bad guy here but there really are some accounting rules we need to keep in mind,” Holecheck said as she started the discussion off. “We really need you to make airline reservations at the cheapest rate. Obviously if you choose to, travel Business Select or first class, that certainly is your choice if you are willing to pay the difference, that’s great but we really want to get a handle on who is traveling and what they are traveling for.”

At present, board and staff are required to request travel authorization at least 10 days prior to departure.

Holecheck suggested that she would like to see arrangements made 20 days prior to travel.

Additionally, she suggested a few other alterations, such as including itemized receipts for expense reimbursement requests.

“These policies were meant to help you understand when mileage is appropriate, when your per diem is appropriate, how you use the travel authorization form. That’s what you charge us with, creating policy for you. I think that this is a great first start,” Holecheck said. “It doesn’t mean this has to be the be-all or the end-all.”

Dolan, meanwhile, countered that there are policies already in place that address travel reimbursement and expenses.

He concluded his comments by slamming the town’s personnel policy manual down on the dais much to the surprise of audience members.

“This is getting blown out of proportion. What this is about, after getting your approval to take the Nevada League of Cities director to lunch, I brought in the same receipt that we have brought in for years to the town manager for reimbursement from petty cash. I was told ‘you can’t have it that way because we have to have the itemized receipt.’ I said that’s not written into policy. That was a change made between the town board managers that we were never notified of. For somebody to say that is not in the policy, you are absolutely right. It is not in the policy. There it is. Read it,” he said, as he slammed the policy manual down.

He later apologized by saying a nerve condition caused the manual to slip from his hand.

Board member Dr. Tom Waters told fellow members that he had no problems with the policy changes proposed by the town manager.

He suggested that Holecheck’s updated policies are quite clear and not as vague as the present policy the town is using.

“I guess I’m going to be the odd one out on this. I like the way it’s written. For my over 30 years in the military, this is the type of information we had. The guidelines we are getting from the town manager, I don’t see a problem. This is just the beginning of putting this all together,” Waters said.

Holecheck, meanwhile, noted that more efforts should be made to take advantage of teleconferencing when board members or staff must take part in out-of-town meetings.

“I don’t know if we are taking full advantage of our teleconferencing ability. A lot of people will let you attend these conferences by phone. It is enormously expensive to go first class. If you have to go first class in a week, just come and let’s talk about it because we really have to understand why it is that you have to be there and really make certain that you couldn’t attend by teleconference. The difference between economy and first class can be $1,700 versus $400,” she said.

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