The Scioto County Board of Commissioners met for its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday with two items regarding vehicle purchases for the Sheriff’s Office raising questions.
The requests were for the purchase of four 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe Police Special Sports Utility Vehicles, and five 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Vehicles.
Commissioners stated there were several issues with the requests, including a numerous amount of cruisers and other law enforcement vehicles already on the books.
“Some of them may have been out of service for years, some may still be insured. We don’t know, we don’t know what the situation is, but there’s a huge amount,” said Commissioner Mike Crabtree.
Commissioners counted approximately 90 vehicles on the inventory list.
“We still have a huge amount of cruisers not accounted for, and somewhere along the line someone is going to have to be responsible for trying to account for these vehicles,” said Crabtree. “Even if we sell an old chair we have to sell it at auction, even if it’s not worth selling. Or at least offer it for sell to get it off our inventory list. We have a number of vehicles here that are still carried, and again I don’t know what the issue is with as far as insurance or licensing, but it’s my understanding they have to be accounted for at one point in time. So somehow or another over the years this has been let go, it might have been before Marty’s [Sheriff Donini] time, I don’t know. But the reality is we have a huge amount of vehicles. When they go out of service a lot of them have not been accounted for. That’s one of the issues we have with that as well as who may be using them and where are they.”
“The responsibility lies on the Sheriff to account for those vehicles, but they are titled to us. We don’t want to spend good general fund dollars on insurance for vehicles no one has seen for years,” said Commissioner Bryan Davis.
Davis stated Commissioners sent a letter to Donini in May with questions they had regarding inventories, and a response was never received. In the letter commissioners requested an updated inventory list. Davis stated that an inventory list was received from the sheriff’s office in December of 2018 and listed numerous spare vehicles and raised questions with commissioners.
“When we hear that there are spare vehicles and they’re not non-operational. The question is raised of, why are we buying more?,” said Davis.
Davis stated in the letter requesting additional vehicles, some of the vehicles requesting to be replaced had low miles some at only 30,000 miles.
“I don’t understand that,” said Davis.
Davis said additional questions left to be answered include whether or not there is a contract with the storage facility, why the detectives division made the change from chargers to Tahoes, and what the two vehicles now available due to Washington Township eliminating two positions were being used for.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, commissioners stated they could not prevent Donini from purchasing new vehicles, stating Donini was paying for them out of rotary funds and federal forfeiture dollars. Those funds are not controlled by commissioners, but under Ohio Revised Code they must give permission for the sheriff to use the funds. “There’s no open- ended restriction, meaning we can’t stone wall forever. We’ve decided by the advice of our prosecutor to go ahead and do it,” said Davis.
Davis stated the requests were approved, but under some protest. “Who pays for the gas, who pays for the insurance, who pays for the upkeep on those vehicles? “said Davis.
Commissioners stated that if they had voted against the requests, the sheriff could choose to sue the board of commissioners. Davis stated this is something that Donini has attempted previously. “The reality of it is we don’t control how other offices spend their money. Many times we have to put our blessing on it, like it or not. It’s not a matter of if we agree with it, it’s just a matter of law that we have to approve it,” said Crabtree.
Crabtree stated if it came to a lawsuit it would probably result negatively for commissioners, and with the prosecutor representing all parties, the legal battle would be dealt with in outside lawyers resulting in additional fees. “We’re not going to get into a battle over it, but we don’t necessarily agree.”