ANTIOCH -- If you're an elected official in this city and you're gone for a month or more for nonmedical reasons, you should not get paid.

That was the direction Antioch leaders gave this week in approving new rules related to salary, car and communications allowances.

The City Council approved a new ordinance Tuesday that "encourages" elected officials to return the compensation receiving during their chosen extended time off.

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha asked for the item last month because City Clerk Arne Simonsen was out of the country since Oct. 28, 2013, but she said it wasn't aimed at one person. Some council members, herself included, missed some meetings last year because of family issues or health reasons, she said.

"It's for all of us," Rocha said. "We might not have the same situation, but the rules affect all of us."

Simonsen, a city councilman from 2000 to 2008, said he was out of the country for "personal family matters." He missed three regularly scheduled council meetings in November and December, returning this week and performing his clerical duties at Tuesday's meeting.

Simonsen said he will reimburse the city the $941.20 for the 10 weeks he missed over the remainder of his four-year term.

"I have no problem with the council setting that policy," he said.

Simonsen, however, wants to keep his $350 per month car allowance, saying that he uses it throughout the year to attend League of California Cities meetings and other training sessions.

Using the stipend over the course of the year instead of asking for reimbursement "actually saves the city money," Simonsen said.

The city clerk does not receive a communications allowance.

During the vacation, Simonsen said he "tried to be responsible" and keep up with emails and watch council meetings online.

"I was not just sitting around," he said.

After Rocha and Councilman Tony Tiscareno clarified with City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland that the policy is not binding, Rocha requested that the staff present the council with a more stringent policy in the near future.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.