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County foots bill for trip, but spouses pay own way

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
March 25, 2004
Lauderdale County taxpayers are footing the bill airfare, accommodations and some expenses for county officials to visit with bond rating analysts in New York City.
But county officials are responsible for paying any extra expenses and travel for their spouses or guests who also take the trip.
County Administrator Rex Hiatt said the county is paying for airline tickets for himself, other county officials and Supervisors Eddie Harper of District 1, Craig Hitt of District 3, Joe Norwood of District 4 and Jimmie Smith of District 2.
All but Smith left today for New York City from Meridian Regional Airport; Smith already is in New York. Supervisor Ray Boswell of District 5 did not go on the trip and did not return phone calls seeking his comment.
Hiatt said the county is paying for hotel rooms for each person at a cost of about $269 a night. He said county officials will get $40 a day for expenses; they must cover any additional expenses.
Hiatt said airline tickets are $900 each for people who return after the Friday meeting with representatives from Moody's Investors Services. He said airline tickets for those who stay the weekend are $450 each.
If the hotel rooms for the extra night and the $40 expense pay for the extra day total more than the $450 difference between the two airfares, Hiatt said, then county officials will be personally responsible for the difference.
Hiatt declined to say which county officials are taking their wives or a guest on the New York trip, citing safety concerns for the homes of those who would be out of town.
Norwood, who is not married, said he will travel alone and will stay in New York until Sunday. Harper said he is taking his wife. Hitt and Smith could not be reached for comment.
Neal Carson, the county engineer, said he may return Saturday. Carson, who is not married, would not say if he was traveling alone to New York, calling it a personal issue.