Questions about county vehicle usage have been sent to the Attorney General’s office by the Baldwin County Commission, as the commissioners look to see whether county vehicles can be used for personal business for commissioners and staff.
County Attorney David Conner prepared the letter and laid out potential scenarios where the commissioners or other county officials could need to make personal use of their county vehicle.
“Due to time constraints and the requirements of their official duties, it is sometimes necessary for commissioners to take care of personal business while traveling on official business as opposed to returning home to obtain a personal vehicle,” Conner wrote. “For example, at least one Baldwin County Commissioner owns property where he runs his personal business, which is on the general route between the regular meeting place in Bay Minette, Alabama, and his residence, which is some distance away given the size of Baldwin County. Under the circumstances in order to minimize travel time and lost productivity, a Commissioner needs to be able to tend to personal business while in route on County business or traveling to and from home, as opposed to taking the time and expense to drive to his/her residence and obtain a personal vehicle to tend to personal business.”
Commission Chairman Skip Gruber and Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood both currently drive county vehicles. In their professional lives, Gruber is retired from working for the county and Underwood is an accountant at a firm in Summerdale.
Commissioners Jeb Ball and Joe Davis drive their personal vehicles and are reimbursed mileage by the county.
In the letter to the Attorney General, Conner adds there are also several county employees who are assigned county-owned vehicles that are also wondering if they could “make interim personal stops or tend to personal business so long as those stops are on the general route of travel on County business or travel to or from the officers/employees’ personal residences.”
“Some employees may live in one part of the County and work in another, and on certain days, their duties will require them to travel to an entirely different part of the County,” Conner wrote. “Some employees’ residences may lie between his or her assigned County office and the location where the employee may be required to work for the day, requiring the employee to drive to the employee’s permanent office, pick up a County vehicle and then backtrack to the assigned job site for the day. Baldwin County desires to minimize the excessive employee travel and lost productivity by allowing certain employees to drive County-owned vehicles to and from their residences, when deemed necessary.”
Conner said the county currently limits the personal use of county vehicles, but said the commission could consider amending the policy to allow for limited personal use if okayed by the attorney general’s office.
The three questions asked of the attorney general are:
“May Baldwin County Commissioners use County-owned and assigned vehicles to stop at their personal business offices or property or take care of personal business while traveling on County business or traveling to and from their residence as long as the stops and/or office visits are either on the general route or require only minimal deviation from the route?
“May other county officials or employees use County-owned and assigned vehicles to stop to take care of personal business while traveling on County business or traveling to and from their residence as long as the stops are either on the general route or require only minimal deviation from the route?
“May Baldwin County employees who are required to travel to different areas around Baldwin County be authorized to drive County-owned vehicles to their homes when they must travel to areas of the County which are away from their County assigned office?”
County officials said they expect the response from the Attorney General’s office could take several weeks.