The Utah attorney general’s office should keep better track of its fleet of 54 vehicles, suggested the state auditor in a report sent to the new top cop last week.
Recently appointed Attorney General Sean Reyes asked the auditor’s office to look into how the A.G.’s office was using and managing its vehicles, 16 of which are shared and 38 of which have been assigned to staffers with "commute privileges," meaning they can take their cars home.
The audit, which examined car use from July 1, 2012, to the end of 2013, did not include an analysis of how embattled ex-Attorney General John Swallow used his state car, which was included as part of his compensation package.
By law, the attorney general is allowed to use the vehicle for personal and professional purposes, the audit states.
But Utah strictly regulates how workers in the A.G.’s office are allowed to use their assigned state vehicles and requires documentation detailing usage and mileage, which auditors found was not consistent or sufficient in some cases.
To qualify for a take-home car, a worker must either be on call to respond to crime scenes 24 hours a day, work at home or out of a vehicle at least 80 percent of the time, demonstrate that it’s more practical to travel from home to an alternate work site than to go to a specific office and pick up a state vehicle every day, or be allotted the car as part of a compensation package.
Most of the workers assigned a car are investigators — who are on call and travel more often than attorneys in the office need to — but two cars were assigned to administrators:
Kirk Torgensen, a former chief deputy attorney general, and Robert Steed, the head of the office’s medicaid fraud unit, were each assigned 2012 Toyota Camrys.
Since Reyes took over, both Torgensen and Steed have lost their vehicle privileges.
Steed was the only employee who was found not complying with the legal requirements of operating an assigned vehicle; auditors noted Steed’s travel logs provided "limited information on start and end odometer readings for each day and did not designate business versus commute use."
Torgensen also could not provide documentation detailing mileage or individual trips, but he was not found incompliant because, according to the audit, he was able to show investigators that he used the car to commute among three attorney general office sites (demonstrating a "practical need") and was given the car as part of a compensation package.
"Everything that needed to be done was done. There’s no question everything was legitimate and straight up," Torgensen said late Friday. "We had a group that looked at that internally and everything I did was clearly under policy."
The audit was ordered Dec. 9, 2013, nearly a week after Swallow resigned amid allegations of wrongdoing and misuse of power.
Auditors recommended Reyes review and reauthorize all take-home vehicles to ensure proper usage, and suggested he conduct annual reviews of individuals’ documentation to ensure it’s being filed properly — or filed at all.
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