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HomeNewsArchivesCRACKDOWN BEGINS ON GOVERNMENT VEHICLE USE

CRACKDOWN BEGINS ON GOVERNMENT VEHICLE USE

May 26, 2003 – One of the governor's strategies for cutting costs was put into effect at 5 p.m. Monday: From now on, if police come upon an executive branch worker driving a government vehicle outside of authorized working hours, they are under orders to detain the driver, seize the vehicle or have it towed to a police holding area, and notify the head of the employee's department or agency.
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis announced in a release distributed on Sunday that police "will strictly enforce the governor's austerity measures involving the use of government vehicles after 5 p.m., holidays and weekends."
Any executive branch employee found utilizing a vehicle when not authorized to do so "will be stopped and held at a police facility until the commissioner of the employee's agency or department has been notified," the release stated. "Once notified, the commissioner … shall explain the employee's action to that island's administrator."
According to Lewis, "repeat offenders … could face criminal sanctions."
A list of persons authorized to utilize government vehicles after hours has been distributed to the police commands and to police officers, Lewis said. And "police officers who fail to comply with this order may be subjected to disciplinary action," the release stated.
Seized vehicles will be taken to the Alexander Farrelly Justice Complex in Charlotte Amalie, Patrick Sweeney Headquarters in Christiansted or the Leander Jurgen Command headquarters in Cruz Bay.
"If towing of the vehicles is necessary, all towing fees will be borne and paid by the employee, who will face disciplinary action for the unauthorized use of the government vehicle," the release stated. "No vehicle is to be released by VIPD without the authorization of the administrator" to the police commissioner, assistant commissioner or police chief.
Lewis said he has directed Police Chief Novelle Francis to ensure compliance.
The only persons authorized by the governor to utilize executive branch government vehicles on a 24-hour basis are department and agency heads, Lewis said. "Otherwise, all vehicles must be parked at their respective agencies or the government motor pool," the release stated.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced on April 24 that the government is facing a deficit of $115 million by the end of the 2003 Fiscal Year on Sept. 30. His financial team told the Senate last week that the deficit now could reach $144 million by that date as a result of a federal court order earlier this month imposing a moratorium on the collection of property taxes until the government complies with a 2000 agreement to reformulate its property tax assessment system.
The administration has not announced any projections of how much money is expected to be saved by restricting the use of government vehicles outside of authorized hours.

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