- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Beckley Sanitary Board senior manager did not do anything wrong when he took a government vehicle on vacation out of state, board officials said.

A photograph of the pickup truck, which had a West Virginia municipal license plate, was taken on July 10 at a shopping plaza in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and was posted on Facebook, The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1liDACg ) reported.

The truck is assigned to a senior manager at the Beckley Sanitary Board, board officials told the newspaper.

“The Beckley Sanitary Board historically provides company vehicles to senior management level employees as part of a competitive comprehensive compensation package,” Beckley Mayor William O’Brien, who also is the board’s chairman, said in a statement to the newspaper.

The board’s vehicles are considered a taxable fringe benefit for the employees who use them, and who get to use the vehicles in lieu of extra pay. Employees must report the value of the personal use of the vehicle and mileage for personal use as taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service, O’Brien said.

He said managers often have to answer emergency calls at all hours “in an area that exceeds 25 square miles in the Greater Beckley area.”

The board’s policy differs from the state’s policy for state-owned vehicles.

The state prohibits the use of state-owned vehicles for private purposes, state Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown told the newspaper.

In January, the West Virginia Ethics Commission said in an advisory opinion that counties could not provide vehicles to emergency service providers as a taxable fringe benefit. The commission has not ruled specifically on whether a sanitary board can allow employees to use government vehicles for private purposes.

“Potentially, a governing body may bear an inordinate cost by providing such a fringe benefit if an employee using public equipment is in an accident and injures her/himself or another person, damages the property of another or damages the equipment beyond repair,” the Ethics Commission wrote its January opinion.

“Generally, when public servants avail themselves of public resources not available similarly to the general public, this constitutes private gain,” the opinion stated.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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