Special Report: Free Ride - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special Report: Free Ride

By Andrew Douglas - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Numerous city of Memphis employees drive city-owned cars home. The perk was created under the Herenton administration, and now city leaders say due to lack of paperwork and oversight, they're not sure of the exact number of take home cars are in this program.

Last May, the Action News Five Investigators exposed how a once wrecked police car was fixed up, fancied, and driven around by the city's General Services Director Estrice Boone.  It all happened on the taxpayer's dime.

"You wouldn't want the boss riding around in the worst car in the fleet," Boone said in a story that aired May 13 on Action News 5.

After our report, the hot rod was taken away, but a closer look at the take home car program from documents obtained from the city by the Action News Five Investigators reveal that numerous city owned cars - 20 or more - are driven home.  For many, it's for no other reason than a perk.

There is an obscure policy on the books that allows the practice, but for years there's been virtually little to no oversight.

Longtime former City Council member and current Chief Administrative Officer Jack Sammons says the take home cars are costly to taxpayers, but the final cost is unclear.

"I think that, much like the Summer Youth Program, they're scattered all over creation," Sammons said.

According to city records, there are more than 20 take home cars.  In fact, a recent quick look at the city employee garage revealed plenty of city cars in director and deputy director parking spots.

"There's no doubt that there's some folks in local government that have automobiles that probably shouldn't have them," Sammons said.

Now, a new ordinance is set to drastically limit the number of take home cars.  Councilman Kemp Conrad has sponsored the legislation.

"The Mayor, the CAO - they're on duty 24/7," Conrad said. "The Police Director, the Fire Department Director and Deputy Directors, Public Works, who often have to respond to the scene."

Anything else, according to Conrad, is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"It's money we're not spending on a skycop to keep our people safe, or it's money we're not providing to MIFA," he said.

When the Council votes more take home vehicles could disappear, saving the city a bundle.  But, it's up to the Memphis City Council, who will have the final say.

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