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November 21, 2014

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Public pays the bill

Audit: Take-home vehicles issued to county officials who don’t need them

Nineteen Clark County workers — many of them supervisors — were given round-the-clock county vehicles they do not need, an internal county audit found.

The county’s 106 take-home vehicles are intended to be for workers who frequently respond to emergencies at night and on weekends, but auditors found that many responded to after-hours calls only a few times a year — and in 11 cases not at all.

None of the 19 workers was called back more than five times during the 2005-2006 period covered by the audit.

In fact, payroll records and emergency call logs suggest that when some workers and supervisors did get after-hours calls, they didn’t respond for days or contacted someone else to resolve the situation, according to the audit.

One notable name popped up among those who didn’t need their vehicles — Clark County Assessor Mark Schofield.

“Since his work is performed only during office hours and he does not respond to emergencies, it is unnecessary for him to maintain his 24-hour, unmarked vehicle,” auditors wrote.

Schofield said he decided before the audit started in February 2007 to put the county-owned 1998 Ford Explorer back into his office’s vehicle pool. He’d purchased a personal vehicle in January 2007, he said, but didn’t return the Explorer to the county’s Automotive Services Department until late February or early March 2007.

The audit also found that, under state law, six vehicles — including Coroner Michael Murphy’s and County Fire Chief Steve Smith’s — should not be unmarked, a designation reserved primarily for law enforcement vehicles.

The county can apply for unmarked vehicle status from the state, but must provide justification. Auditors couldn’t find any such paperwork and the county’s automotive services manager said he was unaware of the state law governing the issue.

Additionally, more than a dozen employees were not taxed for their personal use of county vehicles. Others were taxed, but improper calculations were used.

Laughlin Town Manager Jacquelyne Brady, for example, drove a county-owned 2004 Chevrolet Blazer but did not submit mileage logs to the county’s payroll department. Because she drove the vehicle for personal use, the county adjusted her tax form to reflect an additional $15,000 in taxable income.

In a written response to the audit, County Chief Financial Officer George Stevens said future applications for take-home vehicles will require documentation showing how often the employee is called in after hours.

County officials think the coroner’s vehicle should remain unmarked, but the fire chief has decided to mark his vehicle, Stevens said.

Despite the audit’s unfavorable findings, the results show improvement since a previous audit.

A 1999 review found that 60 of 79 round-the-clock vehicles were assigned mostly to managers and senior-level supervisors who didn’t really need the vehicles for emergency responses.

“This practice results in a significant unnecessary expense to the county,” auditors said at the time.

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