August 2, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 31

Borough to address worker perks

The Haines Borough will crack down on use of municipal equipment for private purposes by employees following a recent fire that stemmed from after-hours use of the public works shop.

Brian Lemcke, director of public facilities, said private use of the public works shop will be discontinued, and that he intends to extend the policy to other departments.

“You can’t just say people at the city shop can’t use it if other employees are using the swimming pool or copy machines,” Lemcke said. He said he would soon send a memo to department heads explaining the change.

“For thirty years, it’s been a perk. It’s something that’s got to change,” Lemcke said.

The policy may date back to a time when municipal employees needed to use their own tools to get their government jobs done, and an overlap developed, he said.

Under the new directive, at least two borough employees – water and sewer operator and public works director – will continue to be able to take borough vehicles home, Lemcke said. Those two employees get after-hours callouts and need to have some tools ready to go as well, he said.

Haines Borough code prohibits employees’ private use of government equipment.

Section 2.06.030 of code, “misuse of official position,” says, “a public officer may not use borough time, property, equipment or other facilities with intent to secure a benefit,” and defines a public officer as an employee.

Over the years, various supervisors have had policies concerning use of borough vehicles, Lemcke said. Residents have complained about workers using borough vehicles to drive home for lunch or to check their mail, he said.

Lemcke said he would address those concerns in coming weeks.

Harbormaster Phil Benner said this week that there is no sanctioned, private use of harbor vehicles, including for lunch or checking mail. “I can’t guarantee it, but (harbor employees) shouldn’t be doing that.”

Police chief Gary Lowe said all police officers, as part of department policy, take their patrol cars home at night.

Reasons for the policy include that all, off-duty officers must be available as back-up for police on patrol. Lowe also said that having police cars on the streets tends to keep other motorists driving safely.