A hardly-noticed blurb, hidden in the hinter-pages of Newsday, chronicled, in short order, a motor vehicle accident involving a car owned by the Town of Hempstead and operated by a TOH employee, one Dawn Kurutz.
Nothing remarkable, on the face of it. After all, accidents happen.
What struck us, though -- raising a red flag -- was one salient fact: The accident took place in Copiague, County of Suffolk.
While the Town of Hempstead is, indeed, America's largest township, its reach extending far and wide, when last we looked, neither Copiague nor Suffolk were within the Town's boundaries.
So, what was a Town of Hempstead employee, driving a car owned by the Town (and, presumably, paid for by the Town's taxpayers), doing out in Suffolk County?
According to the Town's Minister of Misinformation, Mike Deery, as reported in Newsday, "Kurutz was on her way to work and was authorized to have the town vehicle."
Is there a reason Kurutz could not use her own vehicle to drive to and from work in Hempstead Town, this even if the TOH-owned car was used by her in the course of her employment? Did the Town have "business" out in Suffolk County for which Kurutz required use of an "official" vehicle? Do Town of Hempstead employees typically use Town-owned/taxpayer paid for vehicles to travel to and/or from work? Exactly what was this car doing out in Suffolk, other than providing a free ride to a TOH employee on the taxpayers' of Hempstead Town dime (add in gas -- unless this was one of those new-fangled Hydrogen-propelled vehicles -- and we're talking real money here)?
We won't even get into why a Suffolk County resident is on the Town of Hempstead payroll, especially at a time when so many qualified Town of Hempstead residents are unemployed, ready to work, and have more than vested interests in the municipality's affairs. [Will assume, for purposes of this blogpost, that Miss Kurutz is a relative, friend, or significant somebody connected in some way to the GOP.]
But we digress.
In a time of economic upheaval, when government, from the feds to the counties, is cutting back, firing workers, and moving toward austerity, how is it that a Town of Hempstead employee is "authorized" to take a Town-owned car to and from work?
In a Town that boasts -- time and time again -- the highest possible credit rating on Wall Street (and we all know now exactly how much credence we can put into that, thank you, Standard and Poors), how does allowing employees to have use of Town-owned vehicles for non-business purposes equate with fiscal prudence?
In an election year, with a campaign slogan of, "Trusted on Main Street," how can citizen taxpayers of Hempstead Town continue to place their "trust" in Town officials who squander hard to come by tax dollars on after-hour honorariums, such as use of official cars for unofficial business?
Maybe it's not just the "crash" in the stock market we have to worry about!
Of course, we may be off base here. Perhaps, way off. Could be that there was a very good reason for Dawn Kurutz having a Town-owned car to travel to work from Copiague in the County of Suffolk. Assuming a valid and reasonable explanation is in the offing, we'll report it right here on this blog, leaving you to decide the propriety -- or not -- of the act.
We are, however, painfully -- although not shockingly -- reminded of the many reports of Town employees operating "official", taxpayer-funded vehicles outside the scope of employment, ala Sanitary District supervisors driving Town-owned SUVs to, from, and virtually everywhere in between.
Yes, it gives us pause when we see, for instance, a vehicle emblazoned with the markings of a local fire, water or school district driving on a roadway outside of, say, Oneonta, New York. Seeing a "Chief's" SUV from a nearby hamlet's fire district on the NYS Thruway north of Westchester, we are tempted to flag 'em down, pull 'em over, and ask, "Where's the fire?"
The use of publicly owned vehicles to perform non-government tasks can sometimes be substantiated. More often than not, however, unofficial use of official vehicles is just plain wrong, if not outright unlawful (think Alan Hevesi's first conviction).
More than this, it prompts this blogger to ask two simple questions: Who is watching the pot at the Town of Hempstead, and do Town taxpayers really give a damn when their tax dollars are literally going out the exhaust pipe in Suffolk County?
We await Mike Deery's response. Stay tuned...
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Town of Hempstead car in Copiague crash
August 10, 2011 by WILLIAM MURPHY / firstname.lastname@example.org
A car owned by the Town of Hempstead was one of three vehicles involved in a collision Wednesday morning in Copiague, Suffolk County police said.
All three drivers were treated for minor injuries after the accident, which occurred about 9 a.m. in front of 30 Merrick Rd., police said.
One of the drivers, who was not identified, was cited for aggravated driving without a license, police said.
The Town of Hempstead employee driving the town vehicle, Dawn Kurutz, was not issued any summonses, a police spokeswoman said.
Town spokesman Michael Deery said Kurutz was on her way to work and was authorized to have the town vehicle.
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