The Airport Authority today approved limits on board members’ meal and hotel expenses while traveling, but delayed any decisions about other proposed travel policy changes proposed after our August story revealed existing policies weren’t always followed.

The authority’s 6-1 vote (San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond voted no) will cap reimbursements for board members according to federal standards that allow a maximum $71 reimbursement for meals each day and a maximum $340 for hotel stays.

The board didn’t adopt them for employees, deferring discussion on that and other expense policy changes to its November meeting.

Board members had mixed opinions about those other changes. Robert Gleason said he wanted to see per-diem limits for employees if they were being adopted for the board. He said the board should eliminate premium travel — any flights more expensive than coach class.

“I think it is difficult to explain and difficult to justify to the traveling public,” Gleason said.

Three other board members disagreed: Tom Smisek, Desmond and Bruce Boland. Desmond said business class travel on international flights is important to keep employees fresh and rested for meetings once they arrive.

“The question comes back: are you willing to defend that from a public scrutiny perspective?” asked Bob Watkins, the authority chairman.

“Are we running it or is the media running the ship?” Desmond replied.

The other changes under consideration include:

  • An annual audit of employee expenses.
  • A requirement to review the policy every two years.
  • Prohibiting employees from signing off on their own expenses.
  • Requiring all expenses incurred by board members and the authority’s president to be approved.
  • Allowing authority employees to be reimbursed for meals together under certain specified circumstances.
  • Prohibit board members and staff who receive an auto allowance from claiming reimbursements for mileage.

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