The Town of Hamburg did not have a policy forbidding employees from driving their town-owned, take-home vehicles for personal reasons when Highway Superintendent Ted Casey drove his Ford Expedition to Pennsylvania on May 19.
Town officials learned of his trip when a traffic camera took a picture of his town-owned SUV running a red light, and the city sent the ticket to the town.
"He evidently took the town vehicle to Philadelphia," Town Supervisor James M. Shaw said. "While on Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia, he ran a red light."
The trip came months after a town councilman had asked for a new policy on take-home town vehicles.
Someone in the town sent copies of the ticket, and another photo of the vehicle outside a country club, to several town officials, the supervisor said.
Shaw said when he found out about it, he told Casey, "You have to pay this ticket."
Casey, in a written statement, said he paid the $100 ticket and the cost of the travel. He said he drove to Philadelphia because of a family emergency involving his daughter.
"I received a call from her in the middle of the night that required my immediate attention. I responded by traveling there to bring her and her belongings home and out of an unsafe environment," he said. "Waiting till morning to rent a U-Haul was not an option."
About 22 officials or employees have take-home vehicles, said Councilman Michael Petrie, who first asked about a policy.
"We started this whole process probably the first month I was in office," he said. "I wanted to eliminate take-home vehicles, but didn’t have enough votes for that."
In lieu of that, he decided a policy would let everyone know the rules. Traffic Safety Coordinator Jerry Giglio was asked to propose a policy. He was able to track down a little-known vehicle policy from 1986, but he could not find any evidence the policy was approved by the Town Board. It outlawed the personal use of town vehicles.
Giglio has come up with a proposed policy that the Town Board plans to vote on next month.
"There will be no personal use of vehicles," he said.
Under the proposal, only certain managers – the supervisor, police chief, emergency management director and supervising building inspector – would be allowed to take their vehicles home.
"All other vehicles are to be parked at designated parking areas," Giglio said.
Shaw said he turned his vehicle, a Chevrolet Tahoe, over to the police department July 1. The board approved the move May 2.
"I didn’t think I really merited it. It was nothing more than a big-time fringe benefit," he said. "We saved about $14,000 by me getting rid of it."
Casey, the highway superintendent, notes that he is on call 24 hours a day, and he does have his own personal vehicle.
"Although I did not violate town policy, I certainly understand constituent concerns relative to this isolated event. I am confident that anyone put in that position would have done the same. I respect the taxpayers of Hamburg and all related costs associated with the travel, including the ticket, were paid out-of-pocket. Our parental responsibilities are our overriding priority," he said in his statement.