- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Two members of the Industrial Commission of Arizona are drawing criticism for claiming tasks such as answering emails or reading a news article count as a day at the office.

Some lawmakers are seeking legislation to prevent the commissioners who enforce state labor and work-safety laws from requesting an exorbitant number of their allotted $50 per diem payments.

The concerns stem from Commissioner Michael Sanders and Commissioner David Parker claiming far more per diem payments than their colleagues this fiscal year. According to activity logs, Parker claimed 253 work days and $12,650 in payments. Sanders maintained he had earned 292 work days, adding up to $14,600 in per diem payments. Sanders and Parker claimed similar amounts the year before. Other commissioners have typically claimed between 60 and 80 per diem days each year in the last five years, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (https://bit.ly/1Kxysdr).

State Sen. Kimberly Yee conducted a hearing involving the commission last month. She questioned the commission’s executive director on how Parker and Sanders could request so many payments.

“There are only 251 working days out of a year, business days. So how are they exceeding this number of working days and filing for $50 a day in an official capacity?” Yee said.

In a written statement, Parker said his workload increased significantly after he became commission chairman.

“I set a personal threshold of devoting fairly substantial time before including a day on the log,” Parker said.

He also cited the burden of juggling a full-time job, forcing commissioners to work evenings, weekdays and holidays.

Sanders said in a statement that a commissioner’s job can include a slew of activities beyond regular meetings.

“My commission activities were extensive and reflect my commitment and dedication to the agency, the safety and health programs that are critical to injured workers, their families, and employers, as well as my engagement with industry and system stakeholders,” Sanders said.

The activity logs for both commissioners include research and reviewing commission agendas. But also listed were discussing commission business on the telephone, talking shop over lunch and exchanging emails. For example, Parker asked for a per diem payment in September 2014 for reading a news article on the 19 firefighters killed in Yarnell; their deaths led to the commission imposing fines against the Arizona State Forestry Division.

“When you’re taking an email or accepting an email or looking at an email, that might take two minutes,” Yee said. “And they’re getting $50 a day for what they would consider a work-related email.”

Yee wants to craft a bill that would define what qualifies as a work-related activity worthy of reimbursement. According to Yee, the current statute allows commissioners to ask for per diem payments for just about anything they feel is pertinent.

Commissioners are appointed by the governor. Daniel Ruiz, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, said his office is monitoring the situation.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, https://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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