How — and where — city vehicles are used by employees of Leitchfield’s utilities divisions is under review, after questions from a member of the Utilities Commission.
Currently, the city provides vehicles for some department heads and on-call employees. The employees pay taxes on the use of those vehicles. A November 2011 personnel policy states that “minimum” use for personal trips or purposes is allowed.
Commissioner Dorothy “Dot” McCall had questioned the allowed usage last month, saying she’d received complaints from residents about city vehicles being used by someone picking up kids after school.
After reviewing the policies and previous meetings’ minutes, the commission had also determined that a 2003 mayoral directive indicated employees on their way to work could use city vehicles to drop kids off at school.
“I guess we’ve got to define ‘minimum’ usage,” commission chairman Robert Crawford said.
He said he didn’t see any problems with a department head driving a city vehicle stopping on the way home to run an errand. The problem would be, for example, that employee going home and then returning to the city in his or her city owned vehicle to run a forgotten errand.
But he noted there are even different policies in place regarding department heads and on-call workers.
On-call employees, for example, are expected to be within a 10-minute drive of Leitchfield at all times. They aren’t paid unless they’re actually called out for repairs or other tasks, but are given a city vehicle to drive to make sure they meet the 10-minute response time.
Crawford said employment law requires those workers to be able to do “90 percent” of their normal day off activites or they have to be paid. For on-call workers, using a city vehicle to pick up their kids from school would almost always have to be allowed, he said, or the city could end up paying them for their time.
Utilities superintendent Kevin Pharis said the complaints they receive about city vehicles being spotted along the roads, in parking lots and in other communities generally involve misunderstandings, not misuse.
People don’t realize that Leitchfield uses a lab in White Mills, for example, to do quality testing on samples, or that the city handles testing for Clarkson and Caneyville, he said.
Commissioner Dwight Embry questioned whether the problem McCall relayed was more an “abuse of time” rather than an abuse of vehicle usage. He said employees shouldn’t be using city vehicles on a regular basis to pick up their kids from school since the school day ends before work shifts.
Still, Embry said, there will be occasional uses that technically violate the policy — such as someone using a city car to pick up an ill child rather than going all the way home to pick up his or her personal vehicle and then returning to the school.
Crawford said city workers have been asked to log the mileage on city cars and trucks for now, to help determine if any abuse is going on. The department heads have also met to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as acceptable uses of city vehicles.
Embry said the commission should let Pharis handle the situation. “They’re his workers, he knows them and should know if there are any problems,” he said.
“Every time we’ve had a real problem it’s been addressed and handled,” Pharis said, repeating that there would always be questions by the public when a city vehicle is spotted somewhere unexpected.
Crawford agreed, saying the only way to prevent that would be dropping the take-home policy completely — something Pharis said most of the workers would support if there was somewhere safe for their personal vehicles to be parked during work hours.
McCall, though, repeatedly said the problem is city vehicles being driven where they shouldn’t be, not excuses for their use.