Cinnaminson’s public safety director will now be able to use his government-issued car to drive to and from work, and officials say the only cost associated with that is fuel.
At Monday night’s township committee meeting, . King already uses an unmarked former patrol car while working in Cinnaminson. Officials put the extra costs associated with driving to and from work at around $2,500 a year.
“It’s not a large sum of money that we’re talking about,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti.
King, who commutes from Mercer County to the township each day. When King is needed elsewhere during the work day, he uses an unmarked car specifically for that purpose. Now, King will be able to take that unmarked car home and use it for other emergencies that occur off-hours. The car is already in use, insured and will not need updating, officials said.
It was Committeeman John Rooney, the township liaison to the , who suggested King have the car.
At Monday’s meeting, Rooney called the use of the car “appropriate.” Rooney declined further comment when reached Tuesday afternoon.
Initially, Minniti was against allowing King to have a take-home car but said he changed his mind after hearing Rooney and George Haeuber, interim township administrator.
“As a general rule, I am not a proponent of government-given vehicles," Minniti said. “The testimony given by George Haeuber that it’s typically done in other municipalities … leaned me in [a different] direction.”
Heubeur said it is “standard practice” for someone in King’s position to have a take-home car.
Moorestown employs a public safety director who drives a township car he can take home.
“What this comes down to is Director King already has a township-issued vehicle for use in daily operation and activities,” he said. “It is insured, is owned by the township and is part of our fleet. The only expense that you’re looking at is the fuel allowance.”
On Monday, Rooney said the fuel and maintenance costs would not exceed $5,000 a year. And if they did, he’d pay out of his own pocket, the committeeman said.
In fact, costs could be much lower. With King’s commute at about 40 miles roundtrip, that’s about $2,600 in fuel costs per year.
“I think $50 a week is a liberal amount on what his fuel would cost,” Minniti said. “He’s fueling at the township where we buy on a contract and it’s less than what you pay at the pumps.”
King is not compensated for the time he puts in during off-hours whether it’s a , , a training session or an emergency call.
Although King is in a civilian position and cannot make arrests, officials said King needs to respond to emergencies as the head of the police department and as an emergency management official. On Monday, Rooney gave the example of an injured police officer or a hurricane, such as .
King, along with every other township employee, does not get reimbursed for mileage.
Last year, township committee voted on a policy that would not allow any township employee to take home a car if they lived outside of a 10-mile radius, unless the committee voted for an exception.
This is that exception.
Regarding the 10-mile radius, Brauckman said, “It’s one of those things you do with great intentions.”
"You later realize that it may be limiting the effectiveness of someone like a 24/7 on-call department head," he added.
When candidates for public safety director were being interviewed last year, all were informed they would not receive a take-home car. However, Rooney made the case that King has “earned it” and has “turned the police department around” since he’s been there.
“As it played out, [Rooney] saw a need for it and that’s why he requested it to township committee,” Brauckmann said. “The committee agreed, I didn’t. It wasn’t my preference but that is the form of government we have and I respect the process.”
Brauckmann, who voted no to King having the take-home car, acknowleged that King has “exceeded our expectations” but said “there are a lot of people who exceed our expectations.”
Currently, township employees who are issued a car they can take home include police detectives, the township’s planning and zoning officer, and the director of public works/superintendent.
All of those employees live within a 10-mile radius, Brauckmann said. If they do not or they move, he added, they would have to drive a personal car to and from work.
“[King] is responsible for the police department,” Minniti said. “He’s at the top of their order. He did take the job understanding that it did not come with a car. He’s spending more time in the community, at community functions and responding to the community. He has every right to ask for a car. We looked at the merits of it and we made a decision accordingly.”
Minniti and Committeeman Ben Young voted yes, while Committeewoman Kathy Fitzpatrick abstained from the vote, saying she needed more information.
On Monday, Rooney said increased revenue—from traffic tickets and court fees—will offset the extra fuel costs. The police department accounts for about $8 million of the township’s $12 million budget.
Minniti said that in the end, he voted in favor of the request because "King has demonstrated that he is spending considerably more time involved in community activities both he and committee anticipated at the time he interviewed."
"If approving this request results in continued enhanced service to our residents, than I believe it is worth the cost," Minniti said. "Though I am not a fan of giving out township vehicles, I don’t see this as unreasonable. The cost is so small compared to the return we get in Director King."