Utah auditor John Dougall nixes use of taxpayer car
Provo • State Auditor John Dougall is the only top Utah official who has not accepted a taxpayer-funded vehicle, according to records from the state Division of Fleet Operations.
While Dougall has refrained from participating in the program, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer have selected fairly basic vehicles for personal and official use.
The perk is considered part of the pay package for Utah's constitutional officers.
Gov. Gary Herbert received a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid that cost about $47,000, records show.
The governor usually is driven by the Utah Highway Patrol for security reasons, so the first lady, Jeanette Herbert, usually drives the Tahoe, The Daily Herald reported Sunday.
Over the past 15 months, the Tahoe traveled about 888 miles per month.
Former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who left office last week, had the most expensive vehicle of all the officials, having selected a 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid that cost about $56,000.
Attorney General John Swallow and Treasurer Richard Ellis both received new cars this year as part of the program.
Swallow received a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee in September, which gives him the newest vehicle in the group. It cost about $40,000.
Ellis selected a 2013 Toyota Avalon, which cost about $31,000, to replace his 2008 vehicle of the same model.
Dougall, the only eligible official who has turned down a state-funded vehicle, instead uses his personal car and seeks reimbursement when he travels for official business.
As state auditor, Dougall has also pushed lawmakers to add some restrictions to the law, such as limiting the type of cars officials can chose and what they can be used for.
In a letter to the Legislature earlier this year, Dougall pointed out that state law does not prevent officials from requesting luxury cars on the taxpayer's dime.
"My concern is the wise use of taxpayer funds in a manner that is readily understood by the taxpayer and caps taxpayer liability. The current system fails on all counts," Dougall wrote in the letter.
Last week, lawmakers discussed Dougall's letter during a meeting of the Government Operations interim committee but did not take any action.
Roger Tew, who heads Utah's Elected Official and Judicial Compensation Commission, told lawmakers that his panel had no suggestions to modify the policy.
The commission could review the issue again but had not seen officials abusing the policy in the past, Tew said.
Dougall told The Daily Herald that he would like to see the policy changed and have taxpayers refunded if officials use their vehicles for campaign purposes.