SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA – San Luis Obispo (SLO) County supervisors recently grilled Sheriff Pat Hedges on his department's excessive use of take-home vehicles, reported the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Supervisor Adam Hill, who led the supervisors' quest for greater accountability of county vehicles, criticized the need for so many take-home vehicles. Hill said he knew no emergency that would require 28 deputies "to respond at once" at night, reported the Tribune.
A recent grand jury report revealed approximately 132 county employees take home taxpayer-owned vehicles every night, amounting to an estimated $1 million annually — which Hedges claimed was not accurate.
Of those vehicles, 59 are in the Sheriff's Department and 13 are in the District Attorney's Office, reported the Tribune.
The grand jury complained that department heads' justification for take-home vehicles were short answers such as "school resource officer" or "division commander," without explanation as to why personal vehicles could not be used instead, according to the Tribune. The jury reported the sheriff, undersheriff, seven school resource officers, several commanders, division commanders, and a process server had take-home cars.
All 13 of the district attorney's vehicles were under the general heading "on-call 24 hours/undercover investigations." Hedges said some officers are undercover and need county cars. For others who live in remote areas, it is cheaper to have them take the car home than have them drive to San Luis Obispo, pick up a county car, and then drive back to their outpost. Others just need to represent the department in their respective communities at night, he said.
Beyond the accountability, Hill said he would like to see a plan for reducing the number of cars that go home with county employees.
The district attorney, sheriff, county administrator and Board of Supervisors are required by law to respond to the grand jury report by Sept. 2, according to the Tribune.