Prince George's County Council Administrator Samuel E. Wynkoop has drawn up a four-page list of stringent guidelines for council members on the proper way to spend the $38,700 in expense money each receives annually.
Council members have used expense accounts to pay for items ranging from flags for constituents to the purchase of raffle tickets, newsletters and, in one case, a dinner at a Washington nightclub that features nude dancing.
The guidelines would, among other things, exclude donations to charitable organizations, purchases of raffle tickets and contributions to fund-raisers as legitimate expenditures.
The guidelines, sent to the nine council members Wednesday, are on the agenda of Tuesday's regularly scheduled council meeting for discussion and action.
Wynkoop prepared the list after former council chairman Floyd E. Wilson and current Chairman William B. Amonett, reacting to a Washington Post report on expense accounts, asked that previously unwritten rules be spelled out for the council's benefit.
Each council member receives about $30,000 in salary annually apart from an expense account. The chairman and vice chairman get yearly bonuses of $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Last year, about half of the $322,053.19 spent by council members from their discretionary expense accounts went for aides' salaries, while more than $71,000 was spent on travel and entertainment.
Council member Wilson, who last year received reimbursements for contributions he made to such civic groups as Jack and Jill and the Prince George's Hook-Up of Black Women, said that he thinks such donations are necessary in political life and should be considered part of the cost of being an elected official.
"As long as you're doing something in the name of the Prince George's County Council, it ought to be covered ," Wilson said yesterday. "I don't think the taxpayers have that big a quarrel with that."
Wynkoop said in his memo to council members that such items as parking tickets would not be reimbursable from expense account budgets. Original receipts and other documentation of expenses must be submitted with reimbursement requests, Wynkoop said, and these will be kept in the finance office.
"It does set out some basic guidelines which will permit the council to make decisions on the appropriate use of their expense accounts," Wynkoop said.
"It's one of those areas which are a little gray," he said. "There is an assumption of trust that one makes in these things."