School board member used staff car 49 times

August 23, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Washington County Board of Education member Andrew R. Humphreys used one of the school system's fleet of cars for eight consecutive days in May, and for several days in a row on other occasions during 1998, board records show.

Altogether, he used a fleet vehicle on 49 days, including five Sundays.

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Humphreys was the only school board member who used a fleet car during the school year, according to board records. He has been accused by other board members of excessive use of the free cars, which are fueled and maintained by the school system's transportation department.

"In my mind there is nothing wrong with this," Humphreys said. "On each occasion the car was used for board business."

The records show Humphreys used a board car on the following days: Jan. 9, 23 and 30; Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 5; March 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26 and 27; April 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30, and May 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27 and 29.


There are no records of where Humphreys went on any of those 49 days, or for how long he used a fleet car at any given time, county schools Transportation Director Chris Carter said.

"There's really no way of telling," he said.

The board has a fleet of 12 cars and one seven-passenger van that can be used by any school system employee for trips involving school business, Carter said.

He said people who want to use a car reserve it by writing their name in a ledger under the dates they choose. They check a box saying they've picked up the key, and check another box on the date they return it.

Carter said people who use fleet cars don't have to say where they're going, and "typically they don't."

"If you think about it, the cars are there for board business," Carter said. "Even if they said they were going to XYZ school, the only way we would have to verify that would be to follow them."

'Honor system'

Humphreys couldn't recall offhand where he went on each of the days he used board cars, but said when he had back-to-back events on consecutive days, "I probably took the car back and picked it up the next morning, but would keep the keys, so they wouldn't know the car was sitting there at the board."

He said there was only one Sunday when he used a fleet car for board business. He said on the other Sundays the records show he had a board car, he probably had an event on Saturday and just didn't turn the car back in until Monday morning.

"Quite frankly, we're on the honor system, and I think it's appropriate that we are," said board member B. Marie Byers. "But this is an unusual compilation of days."

Humphreys said when his use of free board cars became an issue, he checked his home calendar and found that during the 49 days he used fleet cars he went to 84 school-related functions or made school-related visits.

At a school board meeting last Tuesday, he said that during the year he was sometimes forced to use a board car rather than his personal vehicle for board business.

"During this year, my personal vehicle situation changed several times, from two vehicles, to a period of no vehicles, to loaned vehicles, to currently one vehicle," he said. "With a family of four kids, there are times when my personal vehicle is not available, or when it is in the shop for maintenance."

He said that hadn't deterred him from going to school functions.

Ticket at BWI

At one point during the school year, Humphreys drove a board car to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to catch a flight to a conference in New Orleans. At the airport, he got a parking ticket, Humphreys said.

"I understand he wanted the central (school board) office to pay the fine," Byers said. "That's most peculiar."

Humphreys said he disputed the ticket with airport officials. When he was told it was a valid ticket, he said he "raised the issue" with the board of who was responsible for paying the ticket.

"I raised the issue but I ended up paying," Humphreys said. "I wasn't certain who was responsible, being that it was a board car."

"I don't think this should become an issue," he said. "People who call me to offer their support tell me they're getting sick and tired of this stuff being played out."

related story: Use of school cars rare among area officials

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