Some people just don’t get it. A news crew from Detroit’s WXYX-TV discovered that the financially insolvent city of Detroit has wasted $4 million making monthly payments and paying mileage overages on 110 city vehicles whose leases have expired years ago. That’s the amount one accounting professor said the city is paying over what it would have cost to buy the cars outright, or turned them in and leased newer models. In addition to mileage fees, those cars are racking up maintenance costs that newer cars would not incur. In at least one case the city is paying more than $600 a month to lease an 8 year old Dodge Intrepid, spending about $65,000 on the car so far. At a new car dealer, $65,000 in cash or a $600/mo lease payment will put you in a pretty nice luxury car. Jalopnik’s Ben Preston reported on the story, to the site’s credit, but unfortunately the Gawker owned site ended up expressing sympathy for the same incompetents who are wasting those millions. Preston attributes the problem of the city of Detroit’s financial mismanagement to a faceless “city” or “Detroit”. He simultaneously expresses sympathy for the city employees who “can’t get raises” or face possible layoffs.
Meanwhile, most city employees can’t get raises because of budget cuts. Nice one, Detroit.
Just exactly who does Mr. Preston think are the people making stupid decisions like the mismanagement of vehicle leases if not city employees? The people wasting the taxpayers’ money are the city employees running the city. If they miss out on raises or, worse, get laid off, because they and their fellow public employees waste money, they can’t very well expect much sympathy from the folks whose money they are wasting.
Upon examination, this story may have less to do with whistleblowers and more to do with public employees grasping at shrinking city purses. WXYZ’s Scott Lewis said that he was leaked the information by someone in the Detroit police department. Apparently a number of the out-of-lease vehicles are used for administrative and undercover police work. Joseph Duncan, the head of the Detroit Police Officers Association, the labor union representing rank and file Detroit cops, is quoted in the story as being highly critical of the practice, saying that it’s dangerous to undercover cops if the same unmarked cars are used year after year. However, that Duncan’s true concerns are his members’ finances are made clear in his remarks.
“It’s appalling. It’s an affront to the men and women that go out every day. They haven’t had a raise since 2008,” said Duncan. “They made historical concessions on their pension, and now the city wants to take a ten percent pay cut again?”