Car review panel on fact-finding mission after councilman’s DUI

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The use of a county car should not be a perk enjoyed by Prince George’s County Council members, according to one resident who addressed a panel reviewing the issue on Monday.

“Montgomery County, D.C., Arlington County, none of them have a free car policy for elected officials,” said Robert Jenner.

Alarmed by the reports about incidents surrounding the use of county-owned vehicles, the Riverdale resident attended Monday’s meeting of the Vehicle Use Review Board and testified about his concerns.

“It’s a privilege, not a right,” he said of being awarded a county-owned car.

It was the third meeting for the three-member panel charged with examining the local policy that issues county-owned cars to council members.

The Vehicle Use Review Board was formed by the County Council after one of its members, Mel Franklin, totaled a county-owned car and was charged with driving under the influence in November.

That case is still being adjudicated, but it’s not the first time Franklin totaled a county car; he crashed a county owned SUV in 2012. Another council member, Karen Toles, has had numerous traffic citations while operating a county car. In 2012, she was cited for driving 105 mph on the Capital Beltway.

Jenner questioned the need for council members to have county-issued cars at their disposal.

“I mean, they’re really elected officials, not government employees,” he said after the meeting. Jenner thinks the board should repeal the law that allows for the council members’ use of county-owned cars. “It’s a nice perk, I don’t know if they want to get rid of it. We’ll soon find out.”

Jenner said he’s not only concerned about the cost of county-owned vehicles being assigned to council members, but also the cash allowance given to those who use their own cars. Last year, the cost came to $9,600 dollars for those using their own cars.

After the meeting, the panel’s chair, Jacqueline Brown said it’s too early to say what direction the board would take regarding the council members’ use of vehicles.

“We’re on a fact-finding mission right now,” Brown said.

Brown said she doesn’t see a conflict of interest because the board was formed by the very council members who could lose the perk of a take-home car.

“I think there’s confidence is in us to actually be fair and review,” she said.

Residents can also weigh in on the car policy online. The Vehicle Use Review Board’s website features a link where comments can be submitted.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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