Proposed city law targets use of vehicles
GLOVERSVILLE – The city is proposing a law that could make violation of the vehicle-use policy for elected officials and employees a crime.
Mayor Dayton King has faced criticism for failing to turn in mileage logs for the use of the Ford Explorer he is assigned to use for city business.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio, who sponsored a 2011 resolution establishing a vehicle-use policy for the city, wants to add the resolution to the city’s codes so violations could carry criminal penalties.
The Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday to have a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at the next council meeting June 25.
“The ordinance and guidelines will produce a full understanding on the part of city elected officials/employees of their responsibilities concerning the use of city-owned vehicles,” the ordinance states.
It states violations would be resolved by using employee contracts or state penal law.
Anadio said if there is something in an employee’s contract regarding the use of city resources, the contract would supersede the ordinance. However, employees who have nothing in their contract regarding use of resources could face charges such as theft or failure to pay taxes, she said.
King said he often receives calls about firefighters and people working in other city departments going to a house or other places for personal reasons, but he said none of the incidents represent misuse of property.
“I get calls about other vehicles and I don’t see an issue with it because it is a part of doing business,” King said. “I don’t think any of us are abusing city resources in any way.”
He said the vehicle-use issue is “nitpicky” stuff and the result of this year being an election year.
King said the labor attorney will take a look at the ordinance, but he is unsure whether any criminal charges would be leveled over use of a city vehicle.
“I am going to continue to use the vehicle for city use, and I will log my mileage, but I think this is really getting blown out of proportion,” King said. “If this is the only problem we have in the city, then I think the last three and a half years, I have done a pretty good job.”
King said he has suggested for a year to put a GPS tracker on any vehicle to identify where it was and how many miles have been put on it. He said the council has rejected that idea.
The ordinance states city vehicles “may be used only for official business and are not additional compensation or added benefit for the city of Gloversville elected officials.”
The personal use of an employer-provided vehicle is taxable income to the individual, and personal use includes commuting to and from work as well as local and out-of-town personal travel, according to the ordinance.
It states the IRS has provided four methods of determining the personal use value of a city-owned vehicle, and the city finance commissioner’s office will determine which method will be used in reporting to the IRS what is considered an “employer-provided benefit.”
A council resolution dated Oct. 25, 2011, established a vehicle-use policy by allowing city vehicles only to be used for official business and not as additional compensation or an added benefit for city employees or officials.
Members of the council said they have been fielding questions and concerns from city residents about city officials, including the mayor, using city vehicles for personal reasons.
Among those with concerns is former Fire Chief Doug Edwards, who said he previously had witnessed on several occasions the mayor arriving at Northwestern Mutual on Route 7 in Latham in the city vehicle.
King said he worked at Northwestern Mutual for six months but denied using the vehicle to go there.
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said at a council meeting in May if officials don’t start filling out vehicle-use logs regularly, the council may take further action to address the issue.
According to city policy, all non-emergency vehicles, with the exception of police and fire vehicles, are required to be stored in the city parking lot from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. unless formally requested and approved by the mayor, according to the resolution.
The resolution states if the mayor wants to use a city vehicle, the mayor must give notice of the event to the Common Council within 72 hours.
The resolution also requires a daily use log that includes the following information on each trip: date, beginning odometer reading, ending odometer reading, driver name and purpose of use.
On Wednesday, Wentworth said, “The last time the issue was brought up, the mayor stated he didn’t have to follow that resolution and the council has no authority, but he is incorrect and the council does. It is unfortunate it had to come to [the ordinance], but because of his continual disregard for that policy, we have no choice.”
Wentworth said the person in charge of supervising all employees – the mayor – is disregarding the vehicle policy.
“What type of example does that give?” Wentworth said.
The mayor in 2011 said he would follow the policy. He admits he hasn’t kept up with the logs, but says he now is reporting the mileage.
The mayor only filled out mileage logs in August and September last year, records show. He has filed logs for January through May so far this year.
All of the logs and requests are supposed to be included in the monthly Common Council audit, according to the 2011 resolution.
Levi Pascher can be reached by email at email@example.com