Commissioners received just under $38,000 in mileage reimbursement for 2007; records offer few details

By Carolyn Cole
Published on June 12, 2008

Canadian County Commissioners shared a total of almost $38,000 in 2007 for mileage reimbursement after they chose to use their own vehicles instead of driving a county-owned vehicle.

Each Commissioner’s share of the reimbursement is in addition to their annual salaries of $54,000.

Even though the three Commissioners have access to county vehicles, each said they prefer to drive their own trucks. In all, the Commissioners shared $37,946.76 for travel claims in 2007.

District 1 Commissioner Phil Carson received the largest reimbursement at $13,125.34 for miles driven between January 2007 and December 2007, averaging about $1,093.78 per month. District 3 Commissioner Grant Hedrick received $12,868 in 2007 for mileage, or an average of $1,072.34 per month.

District 2 Commissioner Don Young claimed $11,953.32 in travel expenses for 11 months in 2007. He did not turn in a travel claim for August 2007. His 11-month average is $1,086.67 per month.

Commissioners have three options for travel reimbursement, according to a memo from State Auditor and Inspector’s office. They can receive $600, the statutory amount of travel allowance for in-county travel each month, drive a county-owned vehicle or keep a detailed log of all miles traveled on county business and claim actual miles traveled each month. Forms must state the date, miles traveled and nature of official business. Commissioners are reimbursed at a rate of 48.5 cents per mile.

Canadian County Commissioner’s travel claims do detail vehicle odometer readings, total mileage and the date of the trips. The information provided to the Mustang News did not include the destination or nature of the business conducted during the trips.
Statutory travel amounts for other county offices include $400 for the clerk and treasurer, $500 for county assessor and $600 for the sheriff.

Hedrick said he does keep a detailed logbook for himself of appointments and business travel that he would make available to anyone requesting the information. Since fuel prices have spiked to almost $4 per gallon, he is trying to use the county vehicle more often because reimbursements are barely covering gasoline let alone wear and tear on his pickup truck.

“The only time I turn in mileage is if I use my pickup,” he said, adding he still uses his own vehicle when he knows he will need to conduct personal business in addition to work for the county. He said he subtracts any personal miles from his total mileage.

When Don Young started as District 2 Commissioner, he said the district couldn’t afford to have a pickup truck for him to use. He got into the habit of using his own vehicle and uses it almost exclusively.

“If I want to stop at the bank, or I want to stop at Wal-Mart, people holler about a county vehicle being stopped at places,” he said. “That’s my business, it’s my pickup.”

Phil Carson said he reserves a personal vehicle that he uses almost entirely for county business. He said he dislikes using county-owned vehicles because he “can’t stand” cigarette smoke, and if he’s dressed for a business meeting, he doesn’t want to take a truck used by workers who may have tracked grime into the interior. Carson said his job takes him from work sites to professional meetings, and he keeps a change of clothes in his truck to be prepared.

Commissioners are on call around the clock, he said, and using his own vehicle is handy in responding to late night problems.

“We have to respond to it,” he said. “We do lots of travel.”

With meetings in Oklahoma City and overseeing road repairs throughout the county, Carson usually logs more than 2,000 miles in a month. He said his travel reimbursement barely covers gasoline, especially as prices continue to rise. Some maintenance and repair costs come out of his pocket. Young agreed rising costs are a problem, but said he still feels more comfortable driving his own truck.

“I would rather drive my own, that way if I wreck it, that’s fine,” he said.

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