Audit reveals millions in wasteful spending

June 1, 2009 6:59:58 PM PDT
In these tough budget times when every dollar counts, the county of Santa Clara has identified millions of dollars in wasteful spending and "out and out abuse" by some county employees.

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Santa Clara County has 1,800 fleet vehicles, generally unmarked cars assigned to county employees for county business.

The first audit of the fleet in 29 years found big problems.

"This audit clearly shows what I expected, our fleet is too large and too costly," Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager said.

The conclusion: the county could save $7.5 million by paring down the bloated fleet and cracking down on abuses.

The audit found that 276 vehicles in the fleet were driven fewer than 5,000 miles a year. Getting rid of just 200 of them could save more than $4 million.

The audit also uncovered more troubling concerns with the use of county vehicles for out of town trips and unpaid parking tickets.

County employees had nearly 3,000 unpaid parking tickets totaling more than $100,000 in unpaid fines. The biggest offender is a county employee with the probation department.

"We found one vehicle with over 100 parking tickets amounting to $3,550 in unpaid parking citations," audit manager Roger Mialocq said.

There were also 1,700 out of county fuel purchases in the past year in places that do not add up, like Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Lake Tahoe. County executives say using public vehicles for personal use is inexcusable and the rules need to be more explicit.

"We will be looking very carefully at strengthening those policies and making sure people understand there is a consequence for violating them," acting county executive Gary Graves said.

Supervisors say there is no question the county will be changing the way it does business potentially saving millions in the process.

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