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Council Denies Travel Request For City Planner

Jeff Clark - logoBY JEFF CLARK

A request made by City Planner Christina Berry to travel to Chicago to attend the Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting was denied by the council on 3-2 vote. Ward 4 Councilman Marty Turner and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem on Tuesday voted against a motion made by Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box to not approve Berry’s request.
According to Berry, the trip, which was estimated to cost $465, would allow her to complete the field work needed to receive her Real Estate Development Master’s Degree from Auburn University.
“I’m asking the city to pay for it because the course relates to some of the projects I’m working on for the city,” Berry said.
After being questioned by Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin, Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell said the city’s policy regarding continuing education did not include masters degrees.
“I’m not asking for the course to be reimbursed, I’m asking for the travel and transportation to be covered,” Berry said.
With a new policy in place regarding last-minute agenda additions, a request from Berry to have a discussion on her having a four week paid leave of absence was omitted from the agenda.
Gavin questioned Berry on the leave request.
“You’re going to have to be gone from work, you’re going to take a leave,” Gavin said. “Are you going to take a leave?”
Berry said she would take the leave if it was available.

Colin Krieger/The Packet <br>Columbus Mayor Robert Smith

Colin Krieger/The Packet
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith

“Because this is a conference, the sessions in conference relate to what I’m doing with my job and I think the city should support me in attending the conference,” Berry said.
The discussion regarding Berry’s request for the travel was the first since the council voted to change its travel policy. Under the new guidelines, a travel application must be filled out before any city employee, including elected officials, can receive approval for travel. Berry submitted the paperwork along with a 22-page detailed description of the Chicago conference.
“Ms. Berry, since the city has a policy against this, I can’t see supporting it,” Gavin said. “I think you would benefit from this personally much greater than it would benefit the city.”

The council took the following actions Tuesday night:
• Larry Fuller was reappointed to the City Planning Commission on a 4-1 vote. Turner voted against the appointment.
• Chuck Bigelow was appointed to the City Planning Commission on a 4-1 vote. Turner voted against the appointment.
• McArthur Inge was appointed to the City Planning Commission on a 4-1 vote. Box voted against the appointment.
• The Standards of Cover for the Columbus Fire Department were adopted by the council.
• $1,500 was allocated for a Dec. 5 planning retreat for the council. $300 will be used for the rental of Plymouth Bluff, where the retreat will be held. $1,200 will go to retreat facilitator Phil Hardwick, project manager at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University. The council voted 4-1 to approve these measures. Gavin voted against the motion.

Mayor Robert Smith informed the council that Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens will be out for 6-8 weeks after having a surgery of an undisclosed nature.


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