WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – After Sedgwick County Commissioner Lacey Cruse took a trip to Ghana partially paid for with taxpayer funds, some commissioners including Cruse, are looking at the idea to create a travel policy.
Right now, there is no policy in Sedgwick County for trips taken by county commissioners. A commissioner does not have to disclose details about his or her trip to other commissioners or even get their approval.
According to Cruse, all the commissioners, as well as some city council members and Wichita’s mayor were invited to Africa on the trip.
The invitation came from Queen Mother Nana Aplam II who visited Wichita last summer and was honored by the county commission and other local leaders.
“The whole point of this is to share with our community what partners could partner in Ghana,” said Cruse. “The opportunities are there. People just have to take the time to listen.”
Cruse spent a week visiting with aviation and education leaders, touring parts of the area, and much more.
$2,902.79 in Sedgwick County funds were used for the flight and hotel, but Cruse said the cost of expenses including vaccinations, transportation, food, and a visa all came out of her own pocket.
Cruse’s trip was announced, but some commissioners said the feedback from it indicate the need for a policy on travel.
“I do trust my colleagues,” said Jim Howell, Sedgwick County commissioner. “I don’t know if we should be necessarily asking for permission, but I do think some information sharing would be reasonable before the trip. It’s not that anyone has done anything wrong. I don’t think they have. I guess this kind of highlights the fact that we don’t have any policy.”
Sine 2010, county commissioners have taken 43 trips, which were paid for by county funds. That includes 24 trips to Washington, D.C.
In 2010 and 2011, the combined travel totaled more than $10,000 each year. Some commissioners during that time took several trips.
The money to pay for commissioner travel comes from a portion of the county’s budget that is set aside in a contingency fund.
“I did go to the leadership of this commission at the time,” said Cruse. “I went to Chairman Dennis. I went to commissioner Meitnzer, and I asked for their opinions on this trip. They were both supportive and that is why I went.”
Cruse agrees with her colleagues and said the plan to create a policy would be a positive move.
“As always, we can improve,” said Cruse. “If setting a policy is what we need to do, then I’m 100 percent for that.”
Cruse said she is excited to share the details of her trip with everyone.
“The work starts now,” said Cruse. “Nothing happens overnight, but you can’t walk through the door until you open it.”
Cruse said she came back from her meetings with officials in Africa with lists of possible projects and partnerships that would benefit Wichita and Sedgwick County.
“We are the Air Capital of the World,” said Cruse. “We have the skillset where we can help and partner with the county of Ghana and with their aviation minister.”
Cruse will share her findings from her trip in a presentation at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, 3rd floor at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 11).
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