SAN JOSE, CABased on recent audit findings, Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager slammed the county for wasteful and lax management of its 1,800-vehicle fleet, calling for a halt to all new automobile purchases, according to Mercury News. The audit is the first fiscal review of the vehicle fleet division since 1981.

County auditor Roger Mialocq found many of the county's vans, pickups, and sedans sit idle much of the time, employees use vehicles for personal travel, fail to parking tickets, and even wreck their county cars, reported Mercury. By consolidating the fleet, tightening oversight, and selling surplus vehicles, county officials could save taxpayers $7.5 million, the audit concluded.

Mercury reported the following findings of the $116,000 audit:

More than $100,000 in parking fines. County employees have accumulated nearly 3,000 unpaid parking tickets since 1997, valued at almost $105,000 in fines, in violation of a policy requiring drivers to pay their tickets. One vehicle was cited more than 100 times in two years with more than $3,550 in outstanding fines.

Misuse of county vehicles. The audit revealed vehicles have been used for non-business travel to locations such as Reno, Malibu, and Santa Barbara. Some cars were taken to far-off regions while employees were on sick leave or vacation. Mialocq also noted some employees are wrecking cars at alarming rates with little follow-up; nine staffers had three accidents in one year, and two had as many as four.

Lack of take-home vehicle policies. The audit found nonexistent or unenforced policies for managers, sheriff's deputies, social workers, public health nurses and rangers, leading some to take advantage. Vehicles are assigned to 144 employees with take-home privileges, including 32 who live outside the county against local rules; one commutes up to 287 miles each day from Fresno in a county car.

Unused vehicles. The audit found 276 fleet vehicles are driven 5,000 miles a year or less, with more than half of the 180-vehicle "central pool" often going unused.

Board President Liz Kniss said she applauded Yeager for pursuing the audit and agreed that the board should not approve the current $800,000 plan for new sheriff's department vehicles.

Yeager recommended demanding repayment from employees guilty of parking offenses and personal use.