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 www.hattiesburgamerican.com 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.