Government Fleet Top News

Grand Jury Report Scolds Los Angeles County for Luxury Fleet Cars

July 16, 2008

LOS ANGELES – At a time when many Los Angeles County residents are grappling with the squeeze of an economic downturn, dozens of top county government officials are driving luxury vehicles that cost taxpayers as much as $50,000 per vehicle, according to www.dailybreeze.com.

More than 1,400 county workers are given take-home cars, even though some don’t have official authorization to drive them, and at least 30 employees aren’t paying the required taxes on the vehicles. Meanwhile, county employees were involved in 1,852 accidents in their take-home vehicles over the past few years - with 830 accidents in 2005-06 alone that cost taxpayers $6.7 million.

The findings are among hundreds outlined in a recently released Grand Jury report that uncovered broad department inconsistencies and lax oversight of the county’s $433 million, 12,780-vehicle fleet.

In the report, jurors identified 51 “unjustified luxury vehicles” costing more than $30,000 each that could be considered “excessive for routine county business.” Twenty of those vehicles were being used by employees in the county’s health department, eight among the Board of Supervisors, seven in the public works department, three for librarians, and 13 in other departments.

Jurors wrote that they also received information that some county departments were purchasing luxury sedans and high-end SUVs for top executives.

The most expensive vehicle identified in the report was a 2007 Acura MDX worth $49,511 that is the take-home vehicle used by Assessor Rick Auerbach. Other expensive vehicles included a 2003 Lincoln LS costing $48,192, a 2007 Toyota Highlander hybrid SUV costing $38,322, and Antonovich’s 2007 Cadillac DTS at $31,663.

Jurors recommended the supervisors adopt a simple, countywide vehicle policy that would define when take-home vehicles are justified. It also would ensure employees are paying taxes on the benefit, and require departments to track and monitor after- hour vehicle usage to ensure sufficient county business to justify the benefit, according to www.dailybreeze.com.

They also recommended the board amend the county code to establish criteria for standard vehicle types and require departments to seek board approval for vehicles costing more than $30,000.

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