Taxpayer dollars are touring the world

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Professional development is imperative for elected officials -- the laws they're subjected to and the procedures they must follow can often be convoluted and complicated, making a ready understanding of them necessary if they are to conduct the day-to-day business they were elected to perform.

It is necessary that they know the powers of their office and their responsibilities to their constituents.

Networking with other local, state and national officials and decision makers is also a cornerstone of their duties. It is necessary that the issues Moffat County residents face are not forgotten on the Eastern Slope or in Washington, D.C.

But, those responsibilities must be taken on with a hefty measure of common sense, and that's not what has been shown by two sitting and one former Moffat County Commissioner.

Yes, traveling to learn and network are part of the job, as Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos was quoted as saying in Monday's Craig Daily Press. She and Commissioner Les Hampton were in Reno at a National Association of Counties convention the day the story was published. The newest commissioner, Darryl Steele, whose participation in those types of meetings has a greater chance of long-term benefit to taxpayers, did not attend.

Dickinson, in his last year as a commissioner spent a total of $5,408.86 on hotels. That does not include the money he spent on food or travel. His trips in his last three years took him to Washington, D.C. three times, Vail, New Orleans and twice to Hawaii.

In his final term as a county commissioner, Dickinson spent more on travel than any other commissioner in that or the past three years.

Many of his trips occurred at the same time county department heads were asked to cut their budgets by 3 percent and there was a freeze on all capital purchases and construction.

Raftopoulos and Hampton were in Reno at a time when commissioners are asking the city to limit construction on a recreation center so the county could ask voters for a tax increase to catch up on capital needs that have been delayed.

There is a limit, particularly during times of tight budgets, to where and how those elected officials spend taxpayer dollars.

A trip for five to Washington, D.C. may have seemed effective, but was definitely not necessary -- particularly for that many people, including one commissioner who was leaving office the same year the trip was taken.

Our elected officials in Washington are busy, but are generally available to listen to the elected officials in their district via telephone, letter, fax or e-mail.

Consider what else $11,000 could pay for.

The commissioners need to look closely at where they're spending money and consider whether extensive travel makes fiscal sense, common sense and is a taxpayer-supported concept.

It doesn't seem to us that Moffat County's need to be heard is five times more important than that of Rio Blanco County, which is facing many similar issues, but spent 80 percent less.

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