Facing a tight general-fund budget and his promises to streamline government, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said he will take away 40 percent of the city’s take-home cars from employees.
Mayor Collins initially said he would cut 80 percent of the “home garage” vehicles but later said 40 percent would be a reasonable reduction.
Taxpayers pay the fuel bill for the daily commute of at least 89 city employees. Many city employees who respond to late-night, public safety emergencies or overnight calls such as water-main breaks and environmental spills drive city-owned vehicles home after normal business hours.
“It makes sense to do this financially,” Mr. Collins said. “I want to know how many times a month those cars are being used to go out to something on call, and if it’s four or seven times, then it would make more sense to pay [the employees] mileage under the federal reimbursement rate.”
For 2014, the business rate is 56 cents a mile.
Between 1998 and 2008, the city cut the number of vehicles that city employees were permitted to take home at night from more than 200 to fewer than 60. Mr. Collins said “that number has crept back up,” and he plans to address it Monday.
The mayor also wants all city-owned vehicles to carry government plates. Some have private plates, but the amount was not immediately available. Undercover police vehicles would be excluded, Mayor Collins said.
“That removes the temptation to do something with a city vehicle that you wouldn’t do … because it is identifiable as a city vehicle,” he said.
Mayor Collins drives his own vehicle to work every day — a nearly decade-old Jeep Liberty easily identifiable with an Irish flag sticker on the tailgate window.
Former Mayor Mike Bell also drove his own vehicle to work — usually his Dodge Magnum. But his predecessor, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, drove a taxpayer-leased 2006 silver GMC Envoy.
Mr. Collins balked at the suggestion of a 24-hour vehicle for himself.
He criticized then-Mayor Bell in 2012 for the way the city bought a 2013 Chevy Tahoe and a 2011 GMC Terrain. Neither purchase was disclosed in advance to City Council. Both vehicles remain assigned to the mayor’s office. Bob Reinbolt, the mayor’s chief of staff, drove the Tahoe home during the snow storms earlier this month but it generally sits in the garage at One Government Center.
Fifty-two Toledo police officers, including Police Chief William Moton and his three deputy chiefs, are assigned vehicles to take home. Five of those vehicles are federally funded by the FBI; six are paid for through the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program; two were supplied by the state of Ohio, and two were forfeiture vehicles.
Chief Moton did not identify the make and model of the vehicles. He also did not reveal how often the vehicles were used after normal business hours and for what reasons.
Fire Chief Luis Santiago has a taxpayer-owned 2013 Ford Explorer he takes home every night. The department has four 2010 Chevy Tahoes assigned among the assistant fire chief, two deputy chiefs, and an acting deputy chief. Two battalion chiefs each have 2012 Jeep Libertys.
Chief Santiago said he used his assigned Explorer after hours 14 times during the past four months — an average of just 3½ times each month.
Some fire department vehicles were driven to after-hours emergencies less often. Battalion Chief Thomas Jaksetic used his assigned Tahoe five times the past four months. Battalion Chief Damon Williams used his city-owned Jeep only once the past four months, according to a report prepared by Chief Santiago.
The public service department has 11 vehicles assigned to employees 24 hours a day. Among them is a 2011 Dodge Nitro assigned to Director Bill Franklin, a 2011 Dodge Nitro assigned to Commissioner Dave Welch, and a 2002 Jeep Liberty used by Administrator Kevin McCarthy.
There are four general foremen who can use take-home vehicles during snow and ice storms and another foreman who has a 2012 Ford F-250 seven days a week.
Twenty-four vehicles are assigned to city public utility workers, but only three have guaranteed daily take-home permission: Manager Terry Russeau, who has a 2014 Jeep Patriot; Commissioner Dave Pratt, who has a 2002 Jeep Liberty, and Commissioner Tim Murphy, who has a 2009 Ford Escape.
The other 21 vehicles are assigned to duty foremen on a rotating basis. There is a duty foreman for each of the seven divisions within the public utilities department.
The city’s inspections department has only three vehicles assigned for 24-hour use. Chris Zervos, the director of inspections; David Golis, chief building official, and Robert Cendol, chief building and mechanical inspector, each use city vehicles and fuel to commute to work.
Last year, the Bell administration stopped reimbursing Mr. Zervos for the miles he drove to and from work every day and instead gave him a city-owned 2004 Ford Taurus to use daily. That vehicle is also filled with city-purchased gasoline. Mr. Zervos said the expenses for his daily commutes were justified because he stops to make inspections on his way to One Government Center and on his way home to South Toledo.
Two weeks of Mr. Zervos’ expense reports obtained by The Blade show he asked to be reimbursed $313.56 for 566 miles driven in his personal vehicle between May 6 and May 15, 2013. He asked for $318.91 for 578.8 miles from April 26 to May 3, 2013.
As mayor, Mr. Bell submitted a proposed general fund budget in November that must be approved by City Council before March 31. Mayor Collins said he must adjust the budget because Mr. Bell proposed less funding than needed for some departments, including the municipal court, municipal clerk’s office, and youth commission.
“The Bell budget has issues,” Mr. Collins said. “It was balanced but requires a deeper analysis. There is a deficit but the projected deficits have not been finalized.”
The proposed budget includes more than $3.9 million for vehicle maintenance and $3.7 million for fuel.
City spokesman Lisa Ward said the mayor wants to cuts the expenses. “Any place we can make a dent helps,” she said. “He also does not want to see people driving city vehicles without city plates so when the private plates expire, they will be getting city plates.”
City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said she supports the mayor’s plan to reduce take-home vehicles.
“It depends on who is driving the cars,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “There is a need to get a handle on city resources and to justify the use of city vehicles.”
Councilman Steven Steel questioned if the administration conducted a study to determine if it actually would save money to have employees driving personal vehicles.
“I don’t understand why we ever had private plates on city vehicles,” Mr. Steel said.
List of City of Toledo employees who will be losing their take-home vehicles.
Tim Murphy, commissioner, 2009 Ford Escape
David Pratt, commissioner, 2002 Jeep Liberty
Terry Russeau, manager, 2014 Jeep Patriot
Bob Andrews, duty foreman, 1995 Jeep Cherokee
Verdis Chears, duty foreman, 1998 Jeep Cherokee
Ken Futey, duty foreman, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Dan Grady, duty foreman, 2001 Jeep Cherokee
Ron Hanf, duty foreman, 2001 Chevy Tahoe
Greg Mahnicki, duty foreman, 2001 Jeep Cherokee
Mike Lopez, duty foreman, 2001 Jeep Cherokee
Jeff Parker, duty foreman, 20011 Dodge Nitro
Rick Staffan, duty foreman, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Tom Wiciak, duty foreman, 2001 Jeep Cherokee
Tim Wielinski, duty foreman, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Delbert Williamson, duty foreman, 1997 Jeep Cherokee
Alternate Duty Foreman, 2003 Ford F150
Alternate Duty Foreman, 1999 Ford F250
Sam Basil, duty foreman, 2008 Ford F250
Fred Bell, duty foreman, 2008 Ford F250
Terry Fox, duty foreman, 2007 Chevy Tahoe
Brian Homer, duty foreman, 2008 Ford F150
Ralph Kern, duty foreman, 1999 Ford F250
Craig Long, duty foreman, 2002 Ford F250
Rick Russeau, duty foreman, 2009 Ford F150
*** One person per division in public utilities is assigned the title of Duty Foreman at a time (per week) and they have the ability to take the vehicle home only during that time.
The following personnel have been authorized to home garage vehicles:
Chief William Moton,
Deputy Chief George Kral
Deputy Chief Donald Kenney
Deputy Chief James O’Bryant
Sgt. Joe Heffernan
Internal Affairs Lieutenant
Personnel Bureau Commander
On-Call EAP Officer
Captain Michael Troendle
District Station Captains
Crimes Against Persons Lieutenant
Sgt. T. Campbell
On-Call SIU Detective
Sgt. Timothy Noble
Det. D. Morford
Det. J. Dec
Det. L. Espinosa
Det. B. Lewandowski
On-Call Homicide Detective
On-Call SVU Detective
Captain Brad Weis
Lt. Sean Jones
Department of Inspection
Chris Zervos, Director of Inspection
David Golis, Chief Building Official
Robert Cendol, Chief Building & Mechanical Inspector
Chief Luis Santiago, 2013 Ford Explorer
Chief Cervantes, assistant fire chief, 2010 Chevy Tahoe
Chief Jaksetic, deputy chief, 2010 Chevy Tahoe
Chief Syroka, acting deputy chief, 2010 Chevy Tahoe
Chief Byrd, Deputy Chief, 2010 Chevy Tahoe.
Chief Kaminski, Battalion Chief, 2012 Jeep Liberty
Chief Williams, Battalion Chief, 2012 Jeep Liberty
Captain Tillman, Captain, 2004 Chevy Suburban
Lt. Ellis, 1999 Chevy Suburban
Lt. Stout, 2010 Chevy Tahoe
Lt. Hertzfeld, 2008 Chevy Blazer
Capt. Robert Walters, 2012 Ford Escape
Andre Tiggs, fire investigator, 2012 Ford Escape
Dale Pelz, fire investigator, 2012 Ford Escape.
Glen Frames, fire investigator, 2012 Ford Escape
Lt. Kean, 2002 GMC Yukon
Bill Franklin, director, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Henry Swearengen, general foreman, 1998 Jeep Cherokee, during snow and ice only
Tim Plath, manager, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Jeremy Mikolajczyk, manager 2012 Jeep Liberty
David Welch Public, commissioner, 2011 Dodge Nitro
Mike Scott, general foreman, 2012
Mark Marzec, superintendent, 2009 Ford Escape
Ken Hayes, general foreman, 2009 Ford Escape, during snow and ice only
David Calzone, general foreman, 2009 Ford Escape, during snow and ice only
Mick Rollins, general foreman, 2009 Ford Escape, during snow and ice only
Kevin McCarthy, administrator, 2002 Jeep Liberty
Source, City of Toledo