Photos by Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — The city and county own more than 200 vehicles, which can be seen parked and driving all over town. Clockwise from top left, Natchez Public Works owns 16 cars, most of which are work trucks. The Natchez Transit Authority owns the most vehicles in the city with a fleet of 33. The Adams County Sheriff’s Office has more vehicles than any local agency at 45.

Driving your dollars: 221 publicly owned cars on streets

Published 12:27am Sunday, July 15, 2012

By Vershal Hogan & Lindsey Shelton

NATCHEZ — Taxpayers in Natchez and Adams County own 221 government vehicles, give or take anywhere between two and a few dozen vehicles that may not be accurately accounted for on any list.

Of those 221, at least 60 are take-home vehicles, however accurate counts are unavailable due to incomplete answers from some departments.

Data obtained from the Natchez City Clerk’s office and adjusted by department heads that said the clerk’s information was inaccurate shows the City of Natchez owns 143 vehicles, 35 of which spend the night in the driveways of employees. To see a complete list of the city vehicles click here.

Data provided by the Adams County Chancery Clerk’s office and a few county department heads shows the county owns 78 vehicles, close to half of which go home each night. To see a complete list of the county vehicles click here.

However, two Ford Explorers with government tags and markings spotted by a Natchez Democrat photographer Friday were not included on any of the provided lists. The vehicles were parked outside the sanitation department before 5 p.m. Friday but were gone after 5 p.m. One of the vehicles had returned Saturday.

Adams County Supervisor Mike Lazarus said the road department uses one of the Explorers, and the county’s mail and bank courier, Don Bates, uses another. The vehicles are not supposed to be take-home vehicles, Lazarus said.

Bates was on the provided list as having a take-home 1996 Crown Victoria, which Lazarus said recently stopped functioning.

In addition, county data is incomplete because the Adams County Sheriff’s Office did not fully comply with a written request filed under the Mississippi Freedom of Information Act for its data.

While the county office was able to generate a vehicle inventory for the sheriff’s office in response to a public records request filed June 13, two elements of the request — who vehicles were assigned to and what that person’s position was — were not provided.

Mayfield said the request was likely overlooked because his office has been busy.

“A lot of times because we are just busy, it was probably something that just keeps getting put on hold,” he said.

Repeated requests for the information this week were likely unanswered because the office’s inventory clerk, Maj. Billy Neely, is on vacation, Mayfield said.

City and county elected leaders admit that their accounting processes for government-owned vehicles are flawed and need attention.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and several aldermen admitted they had never seen a list of the city’s vehicle inventory.

“This certainly warrants looking into this from a fleet management standpoint,” Alderman Dan Dillard said. “We need to have a way of managing this fleet and knowing the use and purpose of each vehicle.”

Largest fleets

The department with the greatest number of vehicles in the area is the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, which reports 45 total units of transportation.

  • Anonymous

    1. Amazing that the recent city audit did not reconcile the number of vehicles to what they had on inventory list, 2. Amazing that elected officials had never seen a list of vehicles, 3. Amazing that there is not an annual review of assigned vehicles and “approval” of those allowed to take them home, 4. Does the federal government pay the operating costs of the huge fleet of vehicles they so graciously delivered to Natchez?, 5. Has anyone tried to repair the problem with the vehicles whose batteries drain quickly?, 6. Who is making decisions on keeping 1999 model vehicles in the fleet with the higher maintenance costs – eliminate many, replace a few with the same money. 7. Mayors car 2008, low mileage, immaculate condition – why upgrade?  Notice to elected officials – this is part of your job description, don’t defer authority to department heads.

  • Anonymous

    There is no way that, that many people have to take a vehicle home at night…. I feel the majority of that should be scaled back. I do not see why a city and county of this size has to have this many vehicles…. there just seems to be way too many and a good portion of them should go. That will save on money and equipment upkeep. Unless someone is on call they should never be allowed to take home a vehicle. Only key people need to take vehicles home to start with and not everyone in a department needs a vehicle. They could use one of the existing ones that is not being used should they need it.From the sounds of it everyone in every department has a vehicle of some kind to drive. Those older ones need to go…. they are past their prime and  will require way too much to repair. There seems to be a lack of transparency here… they city has no idea who has what and not even a complete list? WOW this place is seriously unorganized and that sounds extremely fishy that some will not produce a list and no one knows whats going on…. which explains why there is no money and they keep having to borrow to meet payroll. I sure hope the new people get this lined out and fast… you can’t keep up with finances if you do not know what is  going on with your own people…. ACCOUNTABILITY….. that’s key. Sounds like too many chiefs and not enough Indians… This is unreal!

  • Anonymous

    I know how many vehicles I have.

  • Anonymous

    Reason to upgrade a 2008 low mileage etc etc vehicle?? oh it has to be the almighty “My IMAGE and I DESERVE It” factor which is a huge BS factor, but then why would we expect anything less? 

    I don’t understand why so many local usage vehicles have to be such big fuel guzzling vehicles 3/4 and 1 ton trucks and large SUV’s.  I am glad to see that at least some of the departments are running Rangers and S-10 size, somewhat more fuel efficient, vehicles.  Come on, a gas guzzling Dodge Durango for the house numbering person, say what??, why does that job require an SUV of any kind much less one distinctly not noted for high mileage.  When an F-350 is listed I have to wonder how often, if ever, that much truck is really “needed” or necessary.  I realize that for some riding around in a big ole duallie is a necessity because of the number times it is hauling heavy trailer loads of equipment around whereas for others it is a prestige/ego thing and might only get tied to a trailer a few times a year.  Maybe the justification sounds something like, “I might some day in the undetermined future need to hook onto a 8 ton trailer load of equipment and will not know about that need far enough ahead of time to schedule one of the dump truck/trailer combos to do the job.”

    Unfortunately, I suspect the reality is that a lot of the rational for the particular vehicles used and the perceived “necessity” to take a vehicle home is in reality an exercise in retrospective justification for an unnecessary taxpayer funded perk.      

  • Anonymous

    I smell another award coming. Good work by the Democrat. :)

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it has to do with the difference between a “selective” audit just thorough enough to pass muster with state reporting laws vs a true counting paper clips warts and all full public disclosure audit.   In this day and time of computers there is no reason why it takes weeks of time to compile information unless that time is to allow cleansing of the information first. While I am not accusing anyone of doctoring the data, one does have to wonder what is going on with the tracking and accounting of the usage of the publicly owned vehicles when it takes so long to produce what should be a simple computer printout.

    As far as holding on to 1999 model vehicles, I see no problem with that as long as the repair costs are under control.  I drive a 99 truck, perform regular appropriate maintenance and would not hesitate to drive it to Alaska.  The vehicles of today with fuel injection are lasting significantly longer unless not maintained and or abused.  Abusing a publicly owned vehicle should result in documentation and termination anyway.

  • Anonymous

    I KNOW THERE ARE MANY HATED TO SEE THIS ARTICLE IN THE ND. BUT THERE ARE MANY THAT THINK ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE IS FAR OVER DUE. UNTIL ADAMS COUNTY GET THERE CHECKS-AND-BALANCE IN ORDER, THE COUNTY WILL CONTINUE TO LOOSE MONEY. THE AMAZING THING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE IS HOW LONG IT’S BEEN GOING ON. CHUCK MAYFIELD; I WILL BET YOU A DOLLAR TO A DONUT THAT 95% OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR DEPARTMENT ARE YOUR REALATIVES, OR BUDDIES, AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT BUDDIES AFTER YOU HIRED THEM. CHUCK; YOUR WAY OF HANDLING BUSINESS IS NO GOOD FOR OUR COMMUNITY. YOU TALKING LOUD AND SAYING NOTHING. DON’T GIVE ME THAT CRAP ABOUT YOU DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO TURN IN THOSE REPORT. JUST LELL THE TRUTH AND SAY YOU NEED MORE TIME TO COVER-UP AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. IT EARKS ME WHEN PEOPLE IN POWER USE THAT POWER TO DO WRONG. WE HAVE A NEW MAYOR IN TOWN BETTER KNOWN AS BUTCH. WE GOT TO KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON HIM TO MAKE SURE HE DON’T RIP THE COUNTY OFF. LAZARUS; YOU NEED TO WAKE UP AND SMELL THE ROSES. JOE MURRY; STOP BEING A FLUNKY FOR CHUCK. IF WE COULD ONLY GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT PLACE, ADAMS COUNTY WOULD BE NEW ORLEAN’S COMPETTION. 

  • Anonymous

    Mine is a 2000, went to Kansas last year without hesitation.   After all, how far does the wrecker have to go to pick one up in Natchez. Maybe we could exchange the ACSO ambulance for a wrecker? How many ambulances of private enterprise can you count in Natchez/Adams to justify why the SO needs one?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/LGVEJCCEQD7CIJDOZGN4Q36AXI Joe

    RAHRAHRAH EYE SEW SMART EYE CAN SPELL I KNOW EVRYTHING ALL CAPS ALL DAY

  • Anonymous

    Is the Waterworks a government agency or a utility?  In my opinion there is a difference between a utility owning vehicles and a government entity owning vehicles.  If a utility can still operate in the black while letting employees take their vehicles to the house and to ballgames and fishing on the weekends, then more power to them.

    But what about this whole sticky area between waterworks and city engineering?  For example, the employee described as “Assistant City Engineer” drives a waterworks vehicle.  Who owns it?  Who pays for the gas and the maintenance?  Does he use it for waterworks or for engineering?  The shared resources of waterworks and engineering doesn’t really pass the smell test.  Fix it, city leaders, before we’re embarrassed by it.

  • Anonymous

    there is one that comes from Jonesville every morning.  He is an unsafe driver as he has passed me in a curve at Frogmore  I have had to take the shoulder numerous times to allow him room to get back over in order to avoid a head on collision.  the next time I will call it in.  Life is to precious for some idiot who shouldn’t be taking a vehicle home to drive so recklessly just because he didn’t leave home early enough

  • Anonymous

    I sure hope whomever is responsible for doing so is filing the correct documentation with the I.R.S. for the personal usage on Mr. Jonesville and everyone else because as noted at the end of the article it is a benefit that is to be reported.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, I suspect that some take the vehicles home to protect them from vandals. Also, I have known 1 or 2 that take the cars home and then drive their own car for all personal business. I think the more important question is whether or not they are using city/county vehicles for personal travel.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Simply sounds to me that too many folks are taking advantage and stealing from the taxpayers simple and true at fact that the leaders need to stop ASAP!!!!

  • Wilma Arnold

    wonder how much insurance is being paid on all those vehicles? my, my,my, natchez is really getting ripped off,

  • Anonymous

    Research the numbers of vehicles & employees for every .gov agency within the county/city over the past 25 years and then cross reference this list with the number of inhabitants within the county/city for the past 25 years.  

    Then ask yourself WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE.  

    Then ask yourself and three more taxpayers how in the hell can WE have twice (or 3X in some depts) the .gov vehicles now when our population has dropped so significantly over the past 25 years.

    Then put the other pieces of this puzzle together……fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc…….

    YOU……WILL…..BE……AMAZED…….AT……..THE…….W-A-S-T-E!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Any and all of these records should ALWAYS be readily available at any/every level of .gov

    DO NOT ALLOW ANY OF THESE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES TO STEAL YOUR TAX DOLLARS.  DEMAND CUTS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    One probable reason the county elected to go self insured with a stop gap level recently.  All the insurance cost could be saved to pay claims.

  • Anonymous

    I thought to work for a government agency you had to at least work in the same county.

  • Anonymous

    What about vehicles of the school board,airport,port,court system,hospital,and other city/ county services. Other than (some) law enforcement no need for take home vehicles. Need log sheet in each vehicle to verifiy mileage for fuel usage an nature of use.and this to be an audit point. How many time do people get called after hours that is a spilt second true life threating emergency.