|REGION: Supervisors turn in some staff cars|
RIVERSIDE ---- Political campaigns sometimes turn on the unlikeliest of words, symbols and deeds. In the race for the state Senate's 66th District seat, the iconic element thus far has been an old car.
A Ford Explorer with 100,000-plus miles on the odometer that was used by Lori Stone in her work as a volunteer has generated radio debates, editorials and proposed legislation in Sacramento.
Lori Stone works on homelessness, women's issues, charity fundraising and other concerns for her brother, 3rd District supervisor and state Senate candidate Jeff Stone. She also works on volunteer teams for the Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office. In her work for the county, Lori Stone is a volunteer, but her big brother also counts on her as a political consultant and pays her from campaign contributions ---- about $65,000 a year, he said. No benefits. But the car attracted attention and became a campaign issue.
VOLUNTEERS DON'T MAKE ABOUT $65K A YEAR LORI!!!
County regulations allow volunteers to use county cars, and the state Fair Political Practices Commission says that's legal, but the policy nonetheless raised questions about the cost, wisdom and appearance of the practice.
Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, recently introduced legislation in Sacramento that would close what he says is a loophole in state law that allowed Stone's sister to use a county vehicle while working as a volunteer for her brother. Anderson hasn't formally declared himself to be a candidate for the state Senate seat, but he was billed that way in a speech earlier this month in Murrieta.
Stone was furious at the legislation, saying it was clearly politically motivated. The bill ---- AB 1399 ---- originally focused on a voting concern, but was rewritten in May to focus on creating what he called a "bright line" regarding the use of county assets.
WAAH, STONE WAS FURIOUS!
Stone said three cars, including the one assigned to his sister, were turned in about two months ago. County officials confirmed that he and some other supervisors turned in county-operated vehicles assigned to particular staff members.
Stone retains his county-issued Dodge Charger and figures he racks up about 33,000 miles a year on county business. His district stretches from Murrieta to the San Diego County line and eastward to Anza.
For county business, his staff members and his sister still can sign out one of three cars assigned to his office from the county fleet. Use of the cars is charged against the supervisor's budget.
Doug Baracz, assistant director of fleet services, says it usually is more economical for staffers and volunteers to use county cars rather than collect the 55-cents-per-mile reimbursement for using privately owned cars. Generally, he said, it costs the county about 31 cents per mile for county cars. That's partly because the county buys fuel in bulk and saves about 25 cents a gallon over the retail rate.
While Stone says he's convinced his staff members' and sister's use of take-home county cars was cheaper for the county, it just became "way too political" to keep them, he said.
Call staff writer Jeff Rowe at 951-676-4315, ext. 2621.