A state trooper violated agency rules by using a highway patrol car to make the roughly 90-mile commute from his home to his duty station, the North Carolina state auditor’s office has found.
That cost state taxpayers more than $9,400 in excess fuel and maintenance costs, the auditor’s investigation found.
The trooper, an administrative First Sergeant for the Highway Patrol’s inspections and compliance unit, lived in Elizabethtown and commuted to his station in downtown Raleigh without proper authorization, according to the auditor’s report. The drive was between 86 and 89 miles each way.
The exceptionally high commuting mileage ultimately resulted in higher fuel and maintenance costs and reduced the vehicle’s useful life.
Report by the N.C. Office of the State Auditor
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The sergeant, who was not identified in the report, drove the excess distance on an almost daily basis in 2015, the report said.
The Highway Patrol authorized the trooper to commute from an apartment in nearby Johnston County – but not from Elizabethtown, the report states.
The sergeant traveled more than 34,000 miles in his patrol car from January 2015 through December 2015. He would have driven less than 18,000 miles if he’d been commuting from the approved house in Johnston County, according to the report.
The trooper’s supervisor admitted knowing that he violated policy by commuting from Elizabethtown, the auditor’s office said.
“The exceptionally high commuting mileage ultimately resulted in higher fuel and maintenance costs and reduced the vehicle’s useful life,” the report said.
Could technology curb misuse?
The auditor’s office began investigating the case after getting a tip on its hotline. It recommended that the highway patrol consider:
▪ Placing GPS devices on all State Highway Patrol vehicles to monitor proper usage.
▪ Taking disciplinary action against the sergeant and his supervisor.
▪ Making the sergeant reimburse the state for the $9,444.95 in excess commuting costs.
In a written response to the audit, Department of Public Safety secretary Frank Perry said the highway patrol would conduct a study to determine the feasibility of placing GPS devices on state vehicles to track usage.
He also said the office would investigate to determine whether the sergeant should be disciplined or ordered to repay the state.
The Highway Patrol will not identify the sergeant, an agency spokesman said, citing the state personnel act.