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Take-Home Vehicles Costing S.D. MIllions

— The city auditor found San Diego spent $2.1 million in fiscal year 2010 on maintaining city-owned vehicles that certain employees use essentially to commute to work.

The report said San Diego lacks a review process to determine which employees should take vehicles home and doesn’t make it clear how quickly those vehicles need to respond in an emergency.

Right now, the city assigns 347 take-home vehicles, mostly to police and fire-department employees. But the auditor’s report said some of those employees rarely respond to emergency calls, and don’t have any special emergency skills or equipment.

The auditor recommends reducing the take-home fleet of fire and police vehicles by about 100, which would save the city more than $700,000 a year.

The audit also found that:

-- Firefighters used city gas cards too frequently at private filling stations when less expensive city fuel facilities were nearby;

-- The city lacks effective internal controls over take-home vehicles; and

-- The city might not have reported the take-home vehicles as a taxable fringe benefit to the Internal Revenue Service.

City officials, including police Chief William Lansdowne and fire Chief Javier Mainar, at least partially agreed with all 15 recommendations in the audit. These include:

-- Establishing maximum distance and expected response times for take-home vehicles;

-- Eliminating vehicle take-home privileges for employees not regularly needed for emergency responses;

-- Annually reviewing take-home vehicle policy; and

-- Calculating whether the cost savings of eliminating take-home vehicles is worth the risk of longer response times.

City News Service contributed to this report

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