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Council addresses city vehicles definition, usage

Cary Ashby • Updated Aug 7, 2019 at 8:45 PM

Norwalk city council will address new legislation tonight which clarifies the meaning and usage of city vehicles.

Law director Stuart O’Hara provided details for council members during last week’s work session. He said the amendment to the city personnel policy manual makes it clear that city vehicles are only to be operated by employees for Norwalk business and all of them will be marked.

One of the only exceptions would be the Huron County Master Gardeners when they water flowers and plants on Main Street while using a Gator owned by the Norwalk Police Department.

The issue came up recently when Councilman Jordy Horowitz told council he had complaints from residents that Mayor Rob Duncan reportedly had been using the vehicle “for personal use,” including “working out at the rec center.” The mayor denied an allegation he used the car to put out campaign signs.

Law director Stuart O'Hara told council at the time there’s very little to be said on the matter of personal use of city-owned vehicles in city records and there are no city ordinances or resolutions on the issue.

A city personnel policy manual outlined a few guidelines when it comes to using a city-owned vehicle for non-city related purposes, including driving it to and from home.

Under the new legislation city employees who use Norwalk vehicles must have valid driver’s licenses and licenses with the necessary endorsements and there will be logs kept if the vehicles are taken out of the city, O’Hara said. According to the policy, the finance department will maintain a current list of all employees authorized to operate city vehicles and only those people may do so.

“City business,” according to the policy, includes — but isn’t limited to — day-to-day operations and traveling to and from meetings and training “related to city business.” Also, city vehicles may be used “for transit to and from meal breaks” first, while the employee is traveling to or from “the site of city business” when the time and distance to drop off the vehicle and use his or her personal vehicle is impractical and two, when the employee is operating the city vehicle outside of Norwalk while on city business.

Also last week, council was informed of a request from police Chief Mike Conney for an officer to participate in out-of-state training on properly conducting “covert operations.” The training will be from Aug. 12 through 16 in Las Vegas and METRICH will reimburse the officer’s registration fee and airfare. The police department is a member of METRICH, a 10-county drug task force.

“Basically we will just pay for his time,” Duncan said.

Council approved the training.

Joe Lindenberger, parks and recreation superintendent, gave council an update on the number of visitors who used the pool during the extreme heat of July 20 and 21. He said there were 140 people the first day and 443 the second; those numbers don’t include members. The pools at the Ernsthausen Community Center were open to the public those two days, free of charge.

“We didn’t meet capacity, but we were close,” Lindenberger said. “The staff did an outstanding job.”

Seventy-seven children attended the movie night July 19.

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