HOULTON, Maine — Changes in the municipality’s personnel regulations made by the Town Council earlier this week will prevent town employees such as the police chief from having personal passengers in town-owned vehicles or using them for personal business.
The changes made by the council during the Monday night meeting added information to existing employee conduct regulations to better govern the use of town-owned vehicles.
At this point, the town’s fire chief and police chief have town-owned vehicles that they operate constantly. Fire Chief Milton Cone uses his truck to carry equipment for the fire and ambulance departments and to respond to calls. Police Chief Butch Asselin uses his police cruiser to respond to calls and other incidents. The town’s public works director, Leigh Stilwell, also drives a town-owned vehicle, and one is allocated to the parks and recreation department and is used by several employees.
Earlier in the year, the council wanted to change the policy to prevent all town employees who drive town-owned vehicles from using them for personal errands or for transporting family members. The council reconsidered, however, when they thought of the effect that could have on the fire and ambulance department.
Cone carries equipment in his vehicle that cannot fit in some of the town’s firetrucks. If a fire broke out while he was somewhere where he did not have his truck, he would not be able to get to the fire as quickly.
Council Chairman Paul Cleary said Cone would be allowed to carry passengers at his discretion and that he could use the vehicle for personal errands. The vehicle also can be driven by firefighters and ambulance personnel.
Other town personnel cannot use their vehicles for running personal errands or providing rides to family members or friends or plowing or maintaining private property.
Cleary said he was against having passengers in town vehicles, and he was opposed to any use of them for personal business. He said he often received calls from community members who were upset by town personnel who they thought were using town-owned vehicles improperly.
“It just looks wrong when you have the chief dumping trash using the chief’s vehicle,” he said during the meeting. “We shouldn’t be using town-owned vehicles for personal use. End of story. That’s my opinion.”
Several of the department heads who drive town-owned vehicles, including Cone and Asselin, were present during the meeting and did not voice opposition to any of the changes made by the council. They also did not respond to any of Cleary’s comments.
The measure passed 5-1, with Councilor Sue Tortello voting in opposition.