March 20, 1998 in Nation/World

Bonner To Put Brakes On Commissioner’s Car Use Mueller, Advocate Of Smaller Government, Uses County Car Too Often On Personal Business, Colleagues Say

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Two Bonner County commissioners want to stop their colleague, Bud Mueller, from cruising to lunch, personal appointments and even Spokane in a county car.

Commissioners passed a resolution Thursday - minus Mueller’s signature - to crack down on abuse of county vehicle use.

The resolution was spurred by complaints from residents who have seen Mueller and his wife out to dinner and driving around Spokane in a county car.

“Mr. Chairman, you can take this however you want to take it,” commissioner Larry Allen told Mueller after a terse exchange about the resolution.

“The fact is there has been abuse of county vehicles being used for personal use, and you have been a big offender,” Allen said.

Mueller was accused of taking home a county vehicle every night. He denied it, saying it was not “every” night, but he takes a vehicle home when it’s “convenient.”

There is a three dollar charge to use the vehicles for personal errands and Mueller said he pays that and abides by the current county policy. Allen countered that Mueller doesn’t pay it, he puts an IOU on his expense account.

“This whole thing is geared to stop me, so I just won’t stop,” Mueller said of the resolution. “I’m still going to do probably what I think is proper for the county. I don’t think I abuse the privilege now. What you want to do is fine. I don’t care.”

Mueller and Allen are Republicans. They ran on platforms that included cutting taxes and ending government waste. Before being elected, Mueller even complained about seeing county workers out to lunch in county vehicles.

“This … is to stop personal, unauthorized use of county vehicles that is costing taxpayers money,” Allen said Thursday.

Last year Mueller was criticized for taking a county vehicle to load sandbags and haul them to his home. He placed them on his dock to keep high water from floating the dock off its pilings. Mueller took more sandbags than residents were allowed. After some complaints, Mueller said residents who needed sandbags could come get them from his house.

One county vehicle was damaged last year while Mueller was driving it. He apparently backed into a stump, causing about $700 damage to the vehicle.

“We are trying to get rid of outright abuse,” said commissioner Dale Van Stone. “Taking vehicles home at night and doing things on weekends that are not county business is not appropriate.”

At one point, Allen threatened to reassign the vehicle Mueller has been driving. There is a shortage of vehicles, and the county building inspector needs one, Van Stone added.

Mueller abstained from voting on the resolution because, he said, “it was aimed at him.”

, DataTimes


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