By Associated Press - Friday, November 28, 2014

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) - Most East Chicago employees haven’t had the perk of having city-owned take-home cars since 2010, when Mayor Anthony Copeland ended the practice and reduced the number of non-public safety vehicles to 68 from 170.

“It went from basically everybody was driving (take-home vehicles) to roughly five people: the police chief, the fire chief, the city clerk, the city judge and the mayor’s office,” Copeland said. He and city financial adviser James Bennett cited liability and fuel costs as reasons doing it.

East Chicago is just one of a few local northwestern Indiana governments putting the brakes on the widespread practice, The Times of Munster ( ) reported.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub says county officials created substantial savings in liability, gas and maintenance costs by removing 58 vehicles from the list of take-home vehicles. Prior to that, he said, residents called to complain about seeing county vehicles being driven to Illinois and elsewhere; that no longer happens.

The newspaper reports that take-home vehicles for top municipal employees, especially for those serving as chief administrators for cities, have long been deemed a perk. In some cases where take home-vehicles are not provided, the city administrator or manager has a contract that calls for him or her to receive an auto allowance every month.

Steve Ellis, vice president for the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said each case should be viewed on an individual basis. It may make sense for police to take home vehicles, but not other government workers.

The need for vehicles may also be lessened as technology allows more business to be conducted remotely.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter has a take-home vehicle, but the nine other department vehicles are kept on-site except when needed for a job. He said both the vehicles and fuel are paid for by drug-forfeiture money.

Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura said he and the police chief have taken home vehicles. Stahura said he doesn’t see it as an outlandish benefit and notes that most everywhere he goes, he is representing the city.

“I’d gladly take another $15,000 a year instead of the car,” he said.


Information from: The Times,

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