SALEM, OR – There have been a few rumblings about what may be an increase in the number of state employees using Oregon fleet vehicles for their personal gain, according to

Amid the allegations of misuse and abuse, state officials claim that residents might merely be confused by what they’ve seen.

Lonn Hoklin, the public-affairs manager for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, which oversees the state’s motor pool and fleet administration, said state vehicles are “for public use only.” State employees are prohibited from using a state vehicle for personal needs. Any staffer found in violation of this rule can be disciplined, up to and including being fired.

However, Sheila Rush of Salem isn’t convinced, especially since there is no official audit system for employee usage. She said in an e-mail that she’s grown tired of dropping her daughter off at her preschool daily behind a man driving a state vehicle doing the same thing.

Her frustration boiled over recently when she parked alongside a state vehicle in a downtown parking garage and trailed a woman into J.C. Penney, where she watched the woman return an item at a cashier counter.

Hoklin said there could be reasonable explanations for these observations. He said state employees regularly are sent out of town on official days-long and weeklong trips. If these staffers need to eat or shop, it would be necessary for them to drive the state vehicle to do so. These employees might be perceived as abusing a state vehicle, but they wouldn’t be, according to

However, there is no official mechanism for tracking state versus personal use. State agencies rent their vehicles from the motor pool and that it is up to these individual departments to monitor mileage and gasoline purchases.

The state’s Department of Administrative Services’ risk-management division maintains a “state vehicle misuse report” online, and residents also can call, mail, or fax in observations. The report addresses concerns about employee driving skills as well.