Cinnaminson's township committee gave the public safety director an upgrade this week—unwittingly, some officials say—when it voted to allow him to drive a town-owned car off-hours.
Some committee members say they were led to believe that the take-home car they authorized to Michael P. King was a spare car in the department’s fleet, not a brand new leased vehicle. Rather than an extra Dodge Durango, King has been driving a new Dodge Charger included in the purchase of a new fleet of police cars that township committee signed off on earlier this year.
King's Charger costs $23,542, financed along with other cars for $110,719 by way of a three-year lease-purchase state contract.
“It was never stated to us that one of these new vehicles would be the police civilian vehicle,” Mayor Don Brauckmann said Thursday. “We assumed they were going to the police officers, not the police civilian director.”
Brauckmann found out Thursday that King, public safety director, got the OK earlier this year from former Administrator Gerry Seneski to purchase a new vehicle for his own use.
“That information was never relayed to committee,” Brauckmann said.
King told Brauckmann he was unaware that committee did not know about the car this whole time, the mayor said. Because of that, Brauckmann said, King declined the car for 24-hour use effective immediately.
Earlier this week at a public township meeting, Committeeman John Rooney, who serves as the liaison to the police department, sought committee's permission for King to use the car he already drives while he’s in town, as a take-home car.
In a 3-1 vote (with one abstention), the measure passed.
However, committee members—not including Rooney—said they were under the impression King was driving a spare Durango that was already paid for and insured by the township. Rooney said Monday the only expenses the township would incur are fuel costs.
Brauckmann said he learned two days after the meeting that King has used a new Dodge Charger for the past month.
“We didn’t know he was already in the Charger,” Brauckmann said, “which was a decision I assume [King], [Seneski] and John Rooney made.”
Earlier this year, committee members passed a resolution authorizing the lease-purchase of seven Dodge Chargers, one Chevrolet Impala, one Ford Explorer, and equipment for the police department. (A copy of the resolution is attached to the right.)
Brauckmann said this is when committee unknowingly voted for a new car for King. In one of the line items for a V6 Charger, there is no price listed under “equipment cost”—the car being for King.
Brauckmann added that the lease of a new vehicle for King was never explained by Seneski when discussing the police lease resolution.
“No one questioned it,” Brauckmann said. “We either didn’t see it, didn’t flag it, didn’t catch it. We did not know one of them was going to be for King.”
Rooney did not return phone and email messages seeking clarification.
Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti said when discussion took place earlier this year about replacing police cars, it was specifically about vehicles for police officers.
As a civilian public-safety director, King has no police powers—he can't investigate crimes or make arrests.
“The bottom line is, Mickey King’s vehicle is not part of the fleet, because the public safety director doesn’t have [his own] car,” Minniti said.
He said Rooney's request to allow King to take home the car he was already using during the day was done in “a misleading fashion.”
“Nobody [knew King] was driving a Charger,” Minniti said. “[Nobody on committee] said he could do that.”
However, Seneski knew, according to King. He did not return a call by press time.
“He’s not here to tell us,” Minniti said. “That’s the problem we have. Best case—it’s a miscommunication.”
Committee passed a policy last year that no employee who lives outside of a 10-mile radius of the township could have a car. Earlier this year, committee granted King, who lives in Mercer County, access to a Durango, a former K9 vehicle, but not to drive to and from work. On Monday, committee voted to let him drive it to and from work.
Committeeman Ben Young, who voted to let King take the car home, said he was not aware a new car for King was included in the new fleet approved earlier this year. He added that he did not find out about King’s new Charger until Wednesday.
However Young stressed that the vote was for King to take a car home, and that’s what he voted yes to.
“I didn’t know anything about him driving the Charger,” Young said. “[But], I believe as a 24/7 responder, he should have a vehicle. I was voting on the purpose of the car.”
Now that King declined use of the car for 24-hour use, it is unknown at this time what it will be used for. Township committee will discuss.
Stay with Patch for more on this story.
Article updated 7 a.m. Friday.