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Marks Changes Position On County Cars For Councilmembers

First term Republican called decision to take a county car, after promising not to, "difficult" and says he and his colleagues need to tighten the rules that govern the vehicles.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks began driving a county-owned vehicle in January much like five of his colleagues on the council.

The councilman's "reluctant" decision to accept the car came after after logging what he said was "thousands" of job-related miles on an eight-year old car that eventually broke down.

And a 2010 campaign promise to voters that he would not accept such perks.

"I should have talked to Mrs. Marks before making that promise," the councilman said.

Marks discussed his decision in an interview on Tuesday, nearly a day before he wrote about the decision on his blog.

During the campaign, Marks also promised to be very visible in the district and attend as many community meetings as he could. He also does not have other employment outside the council—more of a trend this term than in the recent past.

"I know it's supposed to be a part-time job but it really is a full-time job," Marks said of the $54,000 a year job.

Marks sought reimbursement for the mileage put on his personal car while doing county business. Under the terms of use, he and other councilmembers reimburse the county through payroll deduction for personal mileage they put on county cars.

In addition to the access to a car, county councilmembers also have the ability to re-fuel the cars at county fuel depots.

The use of the cars has come under scrutiny again following the arrest of Councilman Todd Huff, who was pulled over and charged with drunken driving while in his county-owned silver Jeep Grand Cherokee. During that stop, he attempted to talk the police out of charging him and left a voice mail for county police Chief Jim Johnson in which he admitted drinking before driving his vehicle.

The councilman failed field sobriety tests and an intoximeter test measured his blood alcohol level at .20–more than twice the legal limit. The councilman drove his vehicle that night apparently despite the fact that his wife, who was a passenger in the car, was sober.

Huff's arrest was the latest incident involving a county-owned vehicle driven by members of the council. In 2005, then-Councilman Sam Moxley was involved in an accident and was subsequently charged with drunken driving.

Huff Monday announced he was voluntarily giving up his county car just as Moxley did immediately following the 2005 accident.

Former Councilman Bryan McIntire, Huff's Republican predecessor, was involved in five accidents in seven years. The accidents all involved his county-owned vehicle. Four of them were determined to be his fault and cost county taxpayers more than $40,000.

Marks said he'd like the council to tighten the rules regarding the use of the cars.

First, Marks would like to see the council adopt a rule requiring councilmembers to turn in the keys to their county-owned vehicles when they are involved in an incident such as the one Huff was charged with.

"I think it should be required until the investigation is over and the court case is resolved," Marks said.

Second, Marks said he would like to the council adopt a rule where the cars are not used to transport the members of the council to campaign events.

"I had a campaign event earlier in the month and I was driven to it in a non-county car," Marks said.

Councilmembers in the past have used the cars to travel to such events and some, like former Councilman Vince Gardina, have been chastised for placing political bumper stickers on the vehicles—a violation of county rules regarding the use of the cars.

"I'm really concerned about the potential for abuse," Marks said.

Marks vowed not to use the vehicle for campaign events and said he's not planning on making a lot of personal trips.

"I'm going to use the car very sparingly," Marks said.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bruce Kahl March 03, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Tom, you are correct. After reviewing travel expenses it probably cost effective to provide a car. BUT, travel expenses would limit it to official business only. Providing a car does not.
moe green March 03, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Bring back : Dale Anderson. At least he kept the long arm of the federal government out of baltimore county
Tom Sharp March 03, 2013 at 08:26 PM
That it should be limited to official business is a given. They obviously should not be using the car to run weekend errands. That's a matter of policing their use and their fear of getting pulled over, spotted by the citizens/media, or in an accident while driving it in those situations.
Bill Howard March 04, 2013 at 12:40 AM
TTMcBean is a very bitter person. Maybe he has no friends?
Bill Howard March 04, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Shame we can't have a REAL NAMES policy. I stand by what I say and but my name and face to it.

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