Councilman says Hattiesburg city employees misuse city-owned cars

Some Hattiesburg city employees are

driving their city-issued vehicles for personal errands and

officials need to revisit the policy governing use of the

automobiles, Councilman Dave Ware said.

Ware said most city business shuts down at 5 p.m., but it's not

uncommon to see a city-owned car driving around well after that.

One Wednesday night when no public meetings were scheduled and

there were no emergencies, Ware said he saw a car driving through

town. Another night, Ware said a constituent called to complain

about a family driving a city-owned vehicle to shop at Wal-Mart.

Mayor Johnny DuPree said he investigated that incident and the

person can no longer take city vehicles home

The city's policy, adopted in 1994, bans the use of the

city-owned vehicles for personal reasons and prohibits anyone not

on city business from riding in the vehicle.

Ware said the policy is being violated frequently.

The city's fleet consists of 297 vehicles, of which 117 are

police cruisers, according to an asset list provided by the city,

and range in age from mid-1980s pickup trucks to new 2008 pickups

that were bought in early June.

To maintain Hattiesburg's fleet, the 2006-2007 budget included

$1 million for gasoline and diesel, which supplies the total

inventory of about 1,100 gasoline-powered machines - from lawn

mowers and leaf blowers to dump trucks and heavy equipment,

according to a article.

The budget also included $880,000 for motor vehicle parts and

repairs and $530,000 to staff and operate the city repair shop.

"It's a very specific policy. Obviously we've gotten away from

that and it's causing wear and tear on these vehicles," said

Council President Kim Bradley.

Public Services Director Bennie Sellers, estimated about 20

people in his department are allowed to take home vehicles although

many of the vehicles rotate based on who is on call.

Ware said those practices do not conform with the city's policy.

"I absolutely know the city is not following the policy set

forth regarding who can take home a vehicle," he said.

However, the mayor feels differently about who should be

authorized to drive city vehicles.

"I think (the policy) gives the administration the authority to

give people who need access to a vehicle for city business a

vehicle they can use while on city business," DuPree said.