Problems with county vehicles

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A while back, there was much ado about a front-end loader that was not marked per state law. There was conjecture that this front-end loader was being used for personal use, and being left at places other than county facilities. The Board of Supervisors claimed that it was an error.  Something had slipped through the cracks. Though a simple fix, it took several months, and several newspaper articles to get that one small crack repaired.

This should have made the board cognizant of Mississippi Code of 1972, Section 25-1-87, “All motor vehicles owned or leased by the State of Mississippi or any agency, department or political subdivision thereof, which shall include counties and municipalities, … shall have painted on both sides in letters at least three (3) inches in height, and on the rear in letters not less than one and one-half (1 ½) inches in height, the name of the state agency or department, or political subdivision, which shall include counties and municipalities, in a color which is in contrast with the color of the vehicle…”

The county administrator has a vehicle, which to this day remains unmarked.  Surely he and the board are aware that it must be marked per state law. Another slip, through a different crack?  Cracks are convenient. Are there more?

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There are reports of county vehicles at the local schools, churches, and other places in the community that are not associated with county business. One wonders how many times this occurs with county vehicles – marked or unmarked? The State Auditor’s Office has issued a demand against DPS official Byron Thompson in the amount of $6,565.71 to the State of Mississippi following an investigation by the State Auditor’s Office into his personal use of a state-owned vehicle. Many counties have a policy, which, in accordance with state law, prohibits personal use of government vehicles, citing the potential for extended liability on the part of the county should an accident occur if the vehicle is not being used for county business. Pearl River County does not have such a policy, nor does it seem to be able to mark all of the vehicles so that the taxpayers can see where they are being used. Considering more than liability, a vehicle is not cheap. Added gasoline, maintenance, etc., if used for personal business, requires more of our tax money so that employees and/or elected officials may enjoy a nice perk with their job.

I am not sure of the total number of vehicles now, but at one time in the past few years there were 129 vehicles for 240 employees. That is a very high ratio – One vehicle for every 2 people? Justification for that seems nearly impossible. Yet there is no discussion of downsizing the fleet, or implementing a policy against personal use of public vehicles.

Marking vehicles is not rocket science, nor is implementing a policy restricting personal use that difficult. Requiring justification for use of a vehicle should be demanded at all times, especially in the upcoming budget cycle, where everyone will be claiming there is just not enough money to go around. It is election year. Where does your candidate for supervisor stand on this issue?


By Donna Knezevich.