An amendment to Allen County government's take-home policy passed Jan. 27 required County Commissioner Linda Bloom to turn in her publicly owned 2008 Chevrolet Impala, but that still had not happened as of Monday — the deadline imposed for her compliance.
"We have a responsibility as the executive and legislative branches of county government to lead by example, and it's unfortunate to put the organization in a place where we have to figure this out," Commissioner Therese Brown said. "This would be a good thing to discuss, but there has been that opportunity before and it has not happened."
Bloom was absent when Brown and Nelson peters passed an amendment to the county's take-home vehicle policy that among other things removed a provision allowing officials elected prior to 2007 to use vehicles originally offered as part of their compensation package. Peters said at the time the change was intended to keep the policy "relevant to our current employee base" and to "efficiently serve the needs" of the public. Bloom, a commissioner since 1995, was unavailable for comment Tuesday but told The News-Sentinel at the time she would not comply. She was the only county employee to lose a vehicle because of the change.
"I don't have to do what they tell me to do," she said.
Brown and Peters disagree, however, and when she failed to comply by Feb. 8 they advised Bloom in writing she was expected to return the car by Feb. 20. Bloom has said she plans to do so today, according to a county official.
"Unfortunately, you no longer qualify for a take-home vehicle . . . (and) would appreciate it if you would make arrangements to have the county vehicle dropped off . . . This way individuals who may have a greater need for a vehicle can gain access to a pool car," the letter stated. "We know that it is important to you to comply with the rules of Allen County and that you would want to set an appropriate example for all Allen County employees and the community."
Under the revised policy, county employees can be eligible for a take-home vehicle by meeting at least one of the following requirements: is called out after hours on a regular basis; reports directly to job sites at the beginning of a shift; is on call and reports with a specially-equipped vehicle; or is on call 24/7 and regularly responds to public-safety emergencies.
Several factors could make employees ineligible for a vehicle, however, including less than 10,000 miles of official use per year. According to the Allen County Auditor's office, Bloom recorded 2,000 official miles in fiscal year 2016 after undergoing leg surgery early in the year. The commissioners earn about $71,000 per year.
Brown said she was uncertain whether the confrontation with Bloom would make it more difficult for the three commissioners to work together. "When you put a stake in the ground, it can be difficult to get past it," she said.
The county has several options should Bloom's failure to comply linger, but Peters declined to offer specifics. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said.