Whenever my job duties here at the Chanute Tribune send me on an overnight trip to luxurious locales like Topeka or Salina, the costs of my meals and my motel room are generously covered by my employer. This process is done without a lot of hassle about where I choose to eat and sleep. As long as the total spent stays under a certain amount, the head honchoes evidently trust me to be mature and adult enough to make my own purchasing decisions.

It’s a shame that Neosho County Commissioners don’t have a similar amount of trust for county employees. When job duties send these employees out of town and county-issued credit cards are used, Commissioners waste time in meetings nitpicking and micro-managing such purchases. While protecting taxpayer dollars from abusive spending is certainly a worthy pursuit for a politician to undertake, the Commissioners have gone totally overboard. All that’s been accomplished in this case is the launch of a long, unnecessary and seemingly endless battle between the Commissioners and everyone who works for the county.

The main tactic employed by Commissioners in this losing effort has been to demand that credit cards be turned in until a department head writes a workable credit card policy. It is actually the job of Commissioners to write policy for the county, which makes me wonder why these politicians didn’t just draft one themselves. If they had taken that sensible step months ago, the county would be saving money in attorney fees, the employees and department heads would have a much better work morale, and the reporter who covers their meetings would have a lot less to write about.

The various arguments in County Commission meetings about this credit card issue are the single most ridiculous political thing I've ever personally witnessed, and that’s quite an accomplishment considering that I've attended speeches by Governor Sam Brownback. During one of these verbal tiffs, a department head asked Commissioner Nicholas Galemore if any county employee had actually misused their credit card in a way that would prompt attention from the Commissioners. The only pieces of alleged misbehavior that Galemore could cite were employees using credit cards to dine at Twin Peaks and Hooters – chain restaurants best known for the interesting outfits worn by genetically-gifted waitresses. Employees have now been told by Commissioners that dining in these perfectly legal establishments “reflected badly on the county.”

As someone who has dined at these restaurants a couple (hundred) times in my life, I’ve never had the brilliant idea to make my employer pay for my meal in such a classy establishment. Still, this designation by our esteemed County Commissioners made me wonder whether my food purchases at these places might have reflected badly on me as a person.

I guess it would depend on who exactly is making the totally subjective determination of how restaurant purchases reflect on either the individual or the entity paying for a meal. There are probably busybodies who could find silly reasons to morally object to a county-funded purchase in any restaurant. Some people strongly oppose fast food because of the promotion of unhealthy eating habits to children and exploitation of cheap labor. Some people won’t eat Mexican food based on a strong opposition to both indigestion and lax immigration policies. I have a friend who doesn’t like Cracker Barrel just because of the racial slur in the name of the business.

I don’t agree with people who hold these views, although I do think that they would probably fit in well on the current County Commission. To me, this illustrates the problem of making governmental policy based on subjective opinions rather than substantiated facts. 

The decisions made by County Commissioners should not be dictated by their opinion on the outfits worn by waitresses at certain establishments. County employees who work in different cities do have to eat occasionally, and the food at these restaurants has roughly the same nutritional value and content as the food at most other restaurants.

Hooters is not substantially different than any establishment where a guy can get a decent sandwich and a cold beer, watch televised sporting events, and ogle attractive waitresses who will put up with us in exchange for the prospect of big tips. There are actually a few places in Chanute where these important tasks can also be accomplished. I wonder if the Commissioners ever use the county money they collect for demanding that other people write policies for them to dine in one of these places, and if they think that reflects badly on the county.

The Commissioners would probably claim that they were acting out of concern for the misogyny that is allegedly on display at these businesses, which is an ironic position for this overly controlling group of men to adopt. For Commissioners to not understand why working-class, rank-and file employees who are single parents can't always afford to put mandatory out-of-town trips on their own personal credit cards and wait to be reimbursed seems much more reflective of a flawed morality than anything that can be seen at Hooters.

If this unnecessary battle over the use of credit cards continues much longer, admitting to being a frequent diner at Hooters won’t reflect nearly as badly on someone’s character as being on the Neosho County Commission.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals or donations to my “Buy a County Commissioner a Hooters Gift Card for Christmas” fund to brian@chanute.com.

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