Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Rundle says vehicle policy siphoning city funds

Commissioner wants review on who should be allowed to drive government property home

October 19, 2005


City Commissioner Mike Rundle believes the city is paying upward of $100,000 per year for a select group of city employees to drive from their homes to work.

At Tuesday night's city commission meeting, Rundle said he believed city department heads were being too lenient in letting city employees take home city-owned vehicles. When the vehicles are driven home by employees, the city pays for all the gasoline costs associated with the employees driving to and from their homes.

"It seems to be more of an unofficial benefit or perk system instead of giving people who actually need a vehicle to do their jobs," Rundle said.

The city has 61 vehicles that are taken home by employees on a regular basis. With gasoline prices recently having topped out near $3 per gallon, Rundle said the number of take-home vehicles should be a red flag to city managers.

Rundle said when gasoline prices began to spike he began requesting information about how many take-home vehicles the city had. Rundle said using fuel mileage estimates from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, he estimated that one round trip per day between the homes and workplaces of each of the 61 employees was costing the city $99,000 per year.

"If you look at our current policy on this, it is somewhat weak," Rundle said. "There is nothing concrete in there."

Commissioner Mike Rundle thinks the city needs a clearer policy on who gets a city car to take home. He says the fuel tab for take-home vehicles may run upward of $100,000.

Commissioner Mike Rundle thinks the city needs a clearer policy on who gets a city car to take home. He says the fuel tab for take-home vehicles may run upward of $100,000.

The current policy mainly discusses issues related to employees having proper driver's licenses, wearing seat belts, that the vehicles are used for city business only and that employees take the most direct route between their homes and work. The only guidance the policy gives on who should be allowed to take home a vehicle is that department heads must determine it is in the "best interest of the city."

City Manager Mike Wildgen said the policy probably does need reviewed, and that there likely was the ability to reduce the number of take-home vehicles. Wildgen said Rundle's concern that the system was becoming an unofficial perk needed to be investigated.

"I think that is a valid question," Wildgen said. "We want to make sure that is not happening."

Wildgen said the general rule he gave to department heads was to consider whether the employee was in the type of position where he or she would need to respond quickly to provide a city service during nonworking hours.

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He said utility workers, for example, sometimes took home trucks with special tools that would allow them to turn off meters or fix water leaks in the middle of the night. Wildgen also said some department heads also had take home cars because they were expected to attend public meetings in the evening or routinely make other trips during nondaytime hours. A list of the 61 positions that have take home cars wasn't available at Tuesday's meeting. Wildgen said fewer department heads, including himself, had the cars because they did have the potential to create questions among the public.

"They'll see your city car in front of a store, and you may be there for city business, but sometimes people think the worst," Wildgen said.

Employees who do drive their personal vehicles for city business are reimbursed.

Commissioners unanimously agreed for Wildgen to prepare a report on the issue, but some expressed concern that if commissioners get more involved in the process it could be unhealthy micromanagement.

"I see this as one of those below the iceberg issues," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "I see this as a policy that we hire managers to create and implement."

Rundle said he thought it was high time for commissioners to become more involved.

"I see it as several tens of thousands of dollars that we could be using every time we struggle with whether to add a new crossing guard or some other needed city employee," Rundle said.

Rundle said a 2000 audit by Kansas City, Mo., found that nearly 75 percent of that city's take-home vehicles were used less than once per month for emergency responses outside normal working hours. The audit also found the city could save about 95 percent of its costs by simply reimbursing employees for use of their personal vehicles rather than providing them a vehicle.


spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 6 months ago

There's a certain city vehicle that I see going thru the drive-thru at McDonalds on 6th and Michigan every Monday thru Friday at 6:30am; I'm guessing it's not for city business.

sharron5rs 12 years, 6 months ago

Lets see... Let employees take home vehicles, or put the money saved towards a roundabout? Takem' home!!

cavtrooper 12 years, 6 months ago

Doncha just love seeing your tax dollars at work....

bankboy119 12 years, 6 months ago

Stop funding trash piles that you deem art, that will more than make up for peoples' gas the city pays for.

Also, there are some businesses that do pay for employees' gas. I'll try and find the article but one company spends $15,000 per month to help out with gas prices. Mine reimburses for any expenses incurred while on company time.

poppygirl 12 years, 6 months ago

Could one of those lucky city employee's please pick me up each morning and take me to work!!!...I could sure use the extra money I would save in gas

bankboy119 12 years, 6 months ago

Because the bus doesn't go to McDonalds

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

make them take the bus and pay for it themselves.

that would free up some money for more roundabouts and speed bumps -though i'm still looking for a cheap $100,000 roundabout that isn't 5 times higher in price.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

I see city vehicles parked at Lawrence Athletic Club every evening. Must some sort of big emergency going on there.

When a friend of mine worked for the city, he was given a car to drive, and he wasn't even in management. He was not on call for city work in the evening or weekends, not ever. Saved him a bunch of money, as he was able to sell his car and just use the one provided by the city.

I wonder if these employees file mileage reports, and if the City reports the personal use as income to the IRS? If not, they are breaking the law. If so, it should be easy for Wildgen to determine the amount of personal use that is going on.

Simons noted in his commentary about the mess the city is in that the decline in the quality of city services and the increase in cronyism and unfriendliness toward business started about 20 years ago. Guess what happened about that time? Wildgen was hired. It is high time for a change.

monkeywrench1969 12 years, 6 months ago

I understand the importance of having the commision but there are a select few who want to live in the past instead of moving toward the future. $100,000 in gas for take home vehicles is pretty high and could fund two new city employees maybe with benefits.

$100,000 sounds like a lot of money but is a drop in the bucket in many respects. If they are penny pinching this amount they need to look at the cost effectiveness of a round about compared to four stop signs. With four signs it is cheap and there is no confusion who has the right of way.

Or how about the lights with cross walk timers that cost about $3000-5000 each. When the red hand comes up it means don't walk and get your butt across the street.

The quaint old charm of Lawrence is gone and we are a growing city with needs that can be met by commercial grow and an accompanying sale tax base, if it was allowed by some of the commisioners. If you are not familiar with LAwrence of the 60s and 70s we were rioting with the big cities during the war...where was the charm in that.

Hey commisioners quit catering to the select few loudmouths and look out for the residents of Lawrence.

hurlehey 12 years, 6 months ago

Whats funny about this, and anybody who knows him knows this, ids that if they gave Rundle a car he'd shut up.

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

this thought just occurred to me: how many years has rundle been a commissioner and why did it take him so long to realize the city car/private use issue?

i recall a letter to the editor or community forum complaint about this 3-4 years ago.

i think wilgin is the hired whipping boy, and takes the heat for a lot a crap.

perhaps the sewer screw up 'no more building permits' that some a planning commissioner claimed to have had no clue about -right, and i got a bridge in brooklyn for sale - but let's blame wildgin for everything and replace him with a radical leftist type.

perhaps he isn't the control freakish type who micromanages everything, so he's an easy target to go after to be replaced by a bearded hippy our commissioners would love.

i think the progressives are making a play to replace wildgen, under handedly so.

remember a former city planner and then planning commissioner was first to blame the city for the northwest lawrence sewer debacle? how could a former planner not know? now rundle is bringing up the city car/private use deal of all times though it probably has been going on since before rundle has been a commissioner.

i think we are being played. they are so good!

poppygirl 12 years, 6 months ago

Could Mr Rundle investigate how many of these "city" vehicles that are drive home actually reside in Lawrence or Douglas County for that matter...those facts may astound some.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

LD says, "so he (Wildgen) is an easy target to go after to be replaced by a bearded hippy our commissioners would love."

Gosh, you are right. I take it back. Hold on, Wildgen. Don't let them push you out!

monkeywrench1969 12 years, 6 months ago

I just remember the photo of RUndle when he was Mayor shaking hands with the protestors who took over the 600 block of Mass, blocked in patrons of stores which were actually contributing to our sales tax funds and saying this is their right.

Although gas conservation is important and further restricting the use of city vehicles if they can save money is good, but his restrictions of commercial growth is also restricting the funding of the city government. Where do his alliances really lie. Is he in office to help the majority or restrict them

HUB 12 years, 6 months ago

Maybe it's just me but if the city wanted to save money they would not build anymore round abouts, they would quit building new firestations just blocks from the old ones, and would quit waisting the tax payers dollars on stupid studies that tell the commisioners exactly what they want to hear. This would save millions of dollars.

Densmore 12 years, 6 months ago

An employee's personal use of an employer's vehicle, including driving to work and back, is taxable compensation under the Internal Revenue Code. As such, the City is required to withhold income taxes on the compensation and to report the income to the feds and to the state. I wonder if the City is in compliance? Even if the City has failed to withold income taxes, the employees in question are required to report the compensation to the feds and state and pay income taxes accordingly. I sure hope that every employee has reported the taxable income and has paid his/her fair share of income taxes. Tax evasion is serious business.

lunacydetector 12 years, 6 months ago

why is Rundle bringing this up now? he's been on the City Commission for 10 years. Didn't he try to fire Wildgen before?

as for the former city planner now planning commissioner first to criticize the City - that person is part of the 'progressive' movement....and did that person quit their city job or were they let go?

i think this is all about getting rid of wildgen. i think they played the business people into getting ticked off about the sewers, now they are going after the rest of us. they have to make it convincing.

frankly, i'd rather have wildgen in there than some hand picked 'no growth' wild eyed puppet.

princess 12 years, 6 months ago

For the love of all that is holy, will you please shut up about the round abouts and the new fire station!!

"We fear change."

princess 12 years, 6 months ago

Where would you store and maintain more (and larger) fire trucks if they were purchased before building a new station? Maybe just a box warehouse with cheap rent? The LFD can hop in their personal vehicles and drive over to them when they get a call.

Putting the cart before the horse just a bit aren't we?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Now if we could just somehow harness the endless idiocy demonstrated here, we could power a parallel universe.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Macon, you're just jealous you aren't in a position to give a demonstration in real micromanagement.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 6 months ago

I was so impressed by the roundabout on Clinton Parkway, so the folks towing their boats couldn't get to the lake. Now that was so thoughtful and well planned. I vote for four stop signs, and a complete new city commission thanks to the voters in the next election. I bet some of those voters are boat owners trying to put their boats into Clinton Lake. Thank you, Lynn

rousseau108 12 years, 6 months ago

i vote we get rid of vehicles for city supervisors. then they could all just ride tricked out Boog-bikes to work (via the sidewalks downtown of course). then all that saved money could go toward buying more fine works of art like the toilet bowl totem pole and the left over farm equipment next to the court house.

ozzynbn 12 years, 6 months ago

With the $avings from the gas no longer being used by the city employees, Boog & Company, Ltd, Inc. could get that RAISE they want so bad. Did no one else see this coming?

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