Sunday, October 19, 2003

Police, fire pension trustees put
limits on travel expenses

The Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio - Travel policies for Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund trustees have been changed following reports of excessive travel and spending by some of the state's pension systems.

The new policies limit trustees to $60 a day for meals, prohibit reimbursement for alcoholic beverages and cap out-of-state travel to no more than three trips a year each, totaling $6,000.

The policies also limit to three the number of trustees allowed to travel to the same conference, unless the conference is a national one or one that features a trustee as a speaker.

The Dayton Daily News reported last month that pension board trustees spent $612,451 on travel and expenses in Ohio and elsewhere between 1998 and July 2003. More than half of the total was spent on 170-plus out-of-state trips, in some cases for seminars that offered half-day sessions. Trustees also sometimes traveled a day or two before a seminar began or remained after it ended, the newspaper said.

The new policies adopted Wednesday allow trustees a travel day before and after a conference. That time may be extended if it results in a lower airfare that offsets the additional hotel and meal expenses.

Trustees also are not allowed reimbursement for laundry service for trips of fewer than five days, mini-bar charges and in-flight or in-room movies.

The Ohio Ethics Commission and the Franklin County prosecutor in Columbus are investigating the board's travel and expenses.

The nine-member board decides how the fund's $8 billion is invested. The pension serves 51,741 active and retired police officers and firefighters and their survivors.

The fund gets its money from deductions from the paychecks of police and firefighters, contributions from local governments and investment profits.

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