Mineola, NY- Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’ audit of the County’s 282 take-home vehicles found that oversight is weak, exposing the County to unnecessary expense and liability. The audit uncovered numerous deficiencies including: no annual review to reassess the need for individual take-home vehicles, insufficient monitoring of employee valid driver’s licenses, no follow-up investigations to reports of possible unauthorized take-home vehicles, uncollected fines for traffic violations and vehicles provided to five New York State (NYS) Judges and the Commissioner of Jurors without seeking reimbursement. Past practices appear to allow eleven employees that live significant distances outside of the County to use take-home vehicles costing over $60,000 annually.
“The lack of sufficient oversight of take-home vehicles results in unnecessary expense and potential liability,” Comptroller Maragos said. “The County needs to immediately cut down on take-home vehicles to essential purposes, and ensure that at all times only employees with valid current licenses are behind the wheel. Long standing practices of State Judges and out-of-County employees holding onto cars needs to be reviewed and possibly abolished.”
Overall, the administration has done a good job in reducing the number of take-home cars from 506 in 2008 to 282 cars at the end of 2014, a 44% reduction, but oversight remains weak. Of the 282 take-home vehicles, 275 were assigned to County employees in 22 departments, six assigned to state employees and one to United Water. In many cases, take-home vehicles are needed, specifically for police department and fire marshal employees.
The review found that the Police Department is not monitoring their drivers through the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles License Event Notification Service System (“LENS”) to ensure that they have a valid unsuspended NYS Driver’s License. The Office of Management and Budget’s Risk Management Division had not been provided with required forms from 15 employees driving take-home vehicles, including department heads, assistant commissioners and high-ranking County officials. The County must ensure that each driver has completed the required motor vehicle operator’s form before they are issued a take-home vehicle or assigned a vehicle from the County’s vehicle pool.
The County also was found to have received tickets and fines for traffic and parking violations committed by employees driving County vehicles. These include red light camera violations, excess speed in school zones, and E-Z Pass toll violations. County procedures require that vehicle operators follow all traffic regulations and provide that employees’ vehicle privileges may be suspended or revoked as a result of misuse of a County vehicle. All fines are the sole responsibility of the employee operating the vehicle. At the conclusion of the audit, there were 218 outstanding traffic violations, 79 of which belong to Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE). Some violations date back several years.
The Comptroller’s Office is pleased to see that County officials support annual reviews of take home vehicle assignments. We understand that County policies and procedures will be updated by year end to address the concerns raised in this report.
The full version of the report is available on the Comptroller’s website.