Out of Control : City Employee Take-Home Vehicles
Out of Control : City Employee Take-Home Vehicles
6/7/13 – When it comes to getting to and from work, average Americans are expected to pay for their own transportation. However, in the City of Banning the taxpayer pays for 16 City employees to drive to and from work every day.
A detailed review of the City’s take-home vehicle practices reveals profound violations of existing written policies and almost a complete lack of accountability on part of City management.
BLATANT VIOLATIONS OF EXISTING WRITTEN POLICY
According to City of Banning Administrative Policy C7 (view), logbooks are to be kept for each vehicle at all times ( Sec. 1, C). Each trip shall be entered into the log book and signed by the operator. The policy further states that “ no employee shall take a City vehicle outside the City, or keep any vehicle at his residence without written authorization by the City Manager or Department Head.” ( Sec. 2, A).
A record request by The Banning Informer revealed that between January 2012 and present, no log books for any of the 16 take home vehicles were kept. Furthermore, no written permissions were on file from any Department Head (including the Police Chief and City Manager) authorizing anyone to take home a City vehicle. In short, the required accountability measures, while in place, were never enforced, making City take-home vehicles potentially an expensive free-for-all.
It was only fuel records, which show time, odometer reading and operator, that enabled the City of Banning to “reconstruct” the total mileages driven for each of the 16 take-home vehicles. ( view response here )
POLICE DEPARTMENT WASTE
The Banning Police Department allows take home vehicles for a total of 9 employees – or about 1/3 of its force of 27. The official reason behind giving out take-home vehicles is that the employee may be on call and will be able to respond quicker to an unforeseen situation ( i. e. emergency).
However, a closer look at the list of take-home vehicle users suggest there is great waste of taxpayer money. For example, Evidence Technican Sandra Perea drove to and back from work from Oak Hills, CA – a 125 mile round trip, paid for by the taxpayer. During the reviewed time period, Perea accumulated approximately 33,000 miles.
Evidence Technicians are not to be confused with Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) who are authorized to collect evidence at crime scenes (source). Evidence Technicians primary activities are in warehouse environments. So if Perea could not work a crime scene, what made her so indispensable that she needed to be on call with a take-home car ?
Another questionable use of taxpayer resources is the police Chief’s decision of giving a take home car to Liza Kester, an IT (computer) technician. Kester – a non-sworn employee of the Police Department – drove over 17,000 miles in an SUV commuting to and from San Bernardino during said time period. Why would an IT technician need to be on call ?
LT. PHIL HOLDER : TAKE-HOME CAR FOR A CONFIRMED LIAR ?
Banning Police Lt. Phil Holder has a history of betraying the public’s trust : he lied under oath when he was an officer with Pomona PD. Eventually he ended up getting hired in Banning. As such he is what is commonly referred to as a “Brady Cop”, one whose testimony is easily impeachable – and therefore worthless – in Court. This makes Holder an officer that is of very little – if any – use in regular Police work : should he witness a crime, his testimony would be worthless for the Department. If he got involved in a shoot-out, nobody would believe him. This begs the question : why is it necessary for Phil Holder to be on call ?
Holder drove a total of 28,274 miles during the reviewed time period (correct mileage revised by City on June 4). Holder’s work commute amounts to about 55 miles round trip. If he commuted about 300 times during the time period (200 days/year), he would have accumulated 16,500 miles. This leaves almost 12,000 miles unaccounted for.
According to reliable sources – about 10 years ago – under Police Chief Michael Brooks, Holder is said to have used his take-home vehicle to go and play golf.
But there are further questions about Phil Holder. His father, Frank D. Holder – a former Pomona PD Sergeant – has been convicted of multiple bank robberies and was sentenced to Federal Prison in 2010 ( view press coverage ). He was released earlier this year.
According to press reports, Phil Holder plead for leniency during his father’s trial. Did he use his take-home vehicle to drive to Court ? Even more so, did Phil Holder subsequently use his take-home vehicle to visit his father in Federal Prison ? In an email dated June 5, we asked Lt. Phil Holder these and other questions. He did not respond.
.ONE CAR NOT ENOUGH FOR POLICE CHIEF PURVIS
On a daily basis, Chief Purvis takes home a black Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. However, when he is on duty in Banning, he uses an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria. According to Banning Public Works Director Duane Burk, this Crown Victoria is exclusively driven by the Chief, but is officially designated as a “pool vehicle”.
Why do taxpayers have to provide not one but two cars that are both driven exclusively by the same employee ? Isn’t one enough ? This is a classic example of government waste !
.CITY MANAGER TAKATA DESERVES AN “F” FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
The obvious policy violations and apparent outright abuses with take-home vehicles in the City of Banning are just the latest example of City manager’s Takata “laissez-faire” approach to accountability.
As previously reported, Takata allowed the Haven Coffee House to operate without permits and without business license for more than a year (story). He also allowed the Banning White House to operate in violation of zoning requirements and without a business license, until such time as its neighbors finally organized a protest (story). Reason : both of those businesses had close ties to former, highly corrupt Council member Barbara Hanna.
Takata is also responsible for not collecting years of rent (over $ 52,000) from the Banning Cultural Alliance, until finally the new Banning City Council forced him to change course (story). Last but not least, Takata recommended paying a $ 1.8 million oil spill bill, against the clear recommendations of expert consultants who questioned $1.2 million of the billing (story).
Most Banning residents could never afford a vehicle like the one Andy Takata is allowed to take home daily at taxpayers expense : his Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid has an MSRP of now $51,970.
With the latest take-home car debacle it is becoming more and more clear that Andy Takata, who drove over 30,000 miles in his City-owned take-home Tahoe, looked the other way while the City’s long standing policies were blatantly violated.
We suggest that Andy Takata deserves an “F” when it comes to accountability. He is the least accountable City Manager in recent memory.
Take-home cars have been given out without checks and balances for years, creating a huge accountability problem. Existing policies need to be enforced. To do so, Banning should immediately implement a GPS tracking system for all vehicles, including take-home vehicles.
This should take the guess-work out of the operation of City vehicles, once and for all ! The public has a right to know where and when business is being conducted with City vehicles.
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