Marks Changes Position On County Cars For Councilmembers

First term Republican called decision to take a county car, after promising not to, "difficult" and says he and his colleagues need to tighten the rules that govern the vehicles.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks began driving a county-owned vehicle in January much like five of his colleagues on the council.

The councilman's "reluctant" decision to accept the car came after after logging what he said was "thousands" of job-related miles on an eight-year old car that eventually broke down.

And a 2010 campaign promise to voters that he would not accept such perks.

"I should have talked to Mrs. Marks before making that promise," the councilman said.

Marks discussed his decision in an interview on Tuesday, nearly a day before he wrote about the decision on his blog.

During the campaign, Marks also promised to be very visible in the district and attend as many community meetings as he could. He also does not have other employment outside the council—more of a trend this term than in the recent past.

"I know it's supposed to be a part-time job but it really is a full-time job," Marks said of the $54,000 a year job.

Marks sought reimbursement for the mileage put on his personal car while doing county business. Under the terms of use, he and other councilmembers reimburse the county through payroll deduction for personal mileage they put on county cars.

In addition to the access to a car, county councilmembers also have the ability to re-fuel the cars at county fuel depots.

The use of the cars has come under scrutiny again following the arrest of Councilman Todd Huff, who was pulled over and charged with drunken driving while in his county-owned silver Jeep Grand Cherokee. During that stop, he attempted to talk the police out of charging him and left a voice mail for county police Chief Jim Johnson in which he admitted drinking before driving his vehicle.

The councilman failed field sobriety tests and an intoximeter test measured his blood alcohol level at .20–more than twice the legal limit. The councilman drove his vehicle that night apparently despite the fact that his wife, who was a passenger in the car, was sober.

Huff's arrest was the latest incident involving a county-owned vehicle driven by members of the council. In 2005, then-Councilman Sam Moxley was involved in an accident and was subsequently charged with drunken driving.

Huff Monday announced he was voluntarily giving up his county car just as Moxley did immediately following the 2005 accident.

Former Councilman Bryan McIntire, Huff's Republican predecessor, was involved in five accidents in seven years. The accidents all involved his county-owned vehicle. Four of them were determined to be his fault and cost county taxpayers more than $40,000.

Marks said he'd like the council to tighten the rules regarding the use of the cars.

First, Marks would like to see the council adopt a rule requiring councilmembers to turn in the keys to their county-owned vehicles when they are involved in an incident such as the one Huff was charged with.

"I think it should be required until the investigation is over and the court case is resolved," Marks said.

Second, Marks said he would like to the council adopt a rule where the cars are not used to transport the members of the council to campaign events.

"I had a campaign event earlier in the month and I was driven to it in a non-county car," Marks said.

Councilmembers in the past have used the cars to travel to such events and some, like former Councilman Vince Gardina, have been chastised for placing political bumper stickers on the vehicles—a violation of county rules regarding the use of the cars.

"I'm really concerned about the potential for abuse," Marks said.

Marks vowed not to use the vehicle for campaign events and said he's not planning on making a lot of personal trips.

"I'm going to use the car very sparingly," Marks said.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steve Kolbe February 27, 2013 at 08:16 PM
This was a good story until I got to the comments. Slandering or assassinating someone's character while hiding behind an anonymous persona is childish, but using someone's wife and, in particular, their children? Really?
Sam Wahbe February 27, 2013 at 08:24 PM
A waste of tax payer money. These folks are public servants. They do not deserve cars paid by our taxes. That's ludicrous .
JDStuts February 27, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Slander would be a malicious, false, and defamatory statement. Nothing here so far rises to that threshold. Most of it is a circulation of facts and and statements offered with acts that define juxtaposition. Slander is akin to stating that several of Marks "constituents are perfect and have Messiah complexes" when perhaps few do. The child issue is also tricky. One can argue that a political decision such as relocating a firehouse might impact property values that subsequently affect the children of the homeowners who now must maintain a diminished asset. With most American's largest nest egg being their home it impacts its resale. Perhaps a elderly couple must now rely on their children to cover the gap from an anticipated sale of their home to fund medical care. Ergo the grandchildren now suffer. In a community it would be nice to insulate our children from the actions of politicians. Sadly that isn't a reality.
MC February 27, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Steve Kolbe, Marks brought his wife into it and she made a comment about her children thatt she later rescinded. No one said a word about their children except Stephanie Marks. On the other point, dont campaign on something you're not gonna follw up on.
Raven February 27, 2013 at 10:12 PM
They need to be accountable and follow the same rules as other County employees. If a County employee needs to be somewhere for the County, they use their own vehicles to get to their work site. They then get a County car to go only to the work site. It is monitored and if you go somewhere else you are disciplined. If you go over the speed limit you are disciplined. If you idle the vehicle more than 5 miles, you are disciplined. When you are done with the assignment at that site you bring the car back to the workplace and use your own car to get home. You do not take it home. You cannot have passengers in the car except County employees. You cannot go into another county or city without prior permission. If you choose to use your own car instead of a County car you are reimbursed for the mileage for business only. You assume the risk to your car and insurance and if you get in an accident it is your problem. If any County employee other than Councilmen were caught drinking in a County car they would be fired. Anyone agree? Disagree?
FIFA February 27, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Raven, you are not entirely correct. If you are using your own car on "County" business the County also is at risk for liability that may occur as a result of an at fault accident. The County will be sued and will pay.
K Blue February 27, 2013 at 11:05 PM
I don't know how much the Councilman earned in his prior position, but it may be that his current salary is insufficient to permit the purchase of a second car in his family at this time. If that is the case, his acceptance of a county car to be used exclusively for county business does not bother me at all notwithstanding his prior statement. Alternatively, he could have leased a car if his finances permitted it and bill the County back for mileage at the permitted rate (which I have no idea what that is) and that may or may not have covered his monthly lease rate. In a more perfect world, all families could own and maintain 2 cars. If, however, it is beyond someone's financial capability to do so at a certain time, I dont think they should be penalized for it if their circumstances change. Reading this article, it appears that he figuratively ran his personal car into the ground on County business.
Raven February 28, 2013 at 12:55 AM
No I am not incorrect FIFA. You assume the liability by using your own car when there are pool cars available.
Raven February 28, 2013 at 01:00 AM
K Blue if he cannot afford a second car on that salary then he needs to cut things. Most County workers do not make that salary in a full time position and manage to have 2 cars. I have no problem with his using a County car for County business but to use a County car for personal use is not acceptable. The citizens are paying for that car and the gas used. If another County worker (as he is one) cannot afford a car can they have one too?
JDStuts February 28, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Steve Kolbe, Seriously? He is about to destroy a neighborhood. But besides that. Did you see what Patch user Stephanie Marks posted today? And then deleted when called on it.
Steve Kolbe February 28, 2013 at 02:04 AM
See comments above from TT McBean ("You know the truth, my damn wife made me get it or else.") and JDStuts ("he didn't have to have kids or he should have married an investment portfolio manager"). Commenters and comments like these are why I infrequently read or contribute to this community. The editors of Patch would do well with eliminating anonymous accounts, much like Facebook tries, for example, to require users to be real people. I simply can't believe that commenters like JDStuts and TT McBean are actually as angry and hateful as the anonymous comments they share and I suspect the acrimony would go away when the shroud of anonymity is removed.
Steve Kolbe February 28, 2013 at 02:10 AM
JDStuts, yes I am serious. You might be angry with a choice he has made about your neighborhood but it doesn't give you the right to attack his family. I hope one day you can step outside of the emotion of your situation and realize that there is no way to legitimize such an assault. Doesn't matter who they are.
K Blue February 28, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Raven, I agree with you completely that using a County car for personal use is unacceptable. As for your statement that he needs to cut things if he cannot afford a second car on a salary of $54,000 (?) before taxes, I cannot agree as I dont know his present or projected assets and obligations, nor those of the County workers you state that manage to have 2 cars. A County worker who cannot afford a car and who does not need a car to perform the duties of his/her work is not entitled to use a County car in my opinion.
JDStuts February 28, 2013 at 02:26 AM
So...only his kids matter? And the impact of 140db air horns on my newborn in a neighborhood that was never considered a spot for the most active fire house in the county until Marks signed off on selling the existing spot with no plan for a relocation or cost assessment is okay? Then when we approached him with the issue he dismissed us outright and ignored any follow up. And we are the ones who assaulted his family? Did you catch the quote today about us suffering from mental illness and yet Marks has yet to produce any numbers that justify this idea will: 1. cover the cost of new construction 2. cover the cost of A/C 3. engage the neighborhoods on relocation of the new station 4. address the impact of noise and light on the property values or West Towson Steve Kolbe, I assume you are decent man. But this idea is a dream killer for the rest of us.
Tom Sharp February 28, 2013 at 01:50 PM
At first glance it would seem like just another perk of the job to get a car, but when half of your job entails driving from requested event to requested event, showing up at hearings in Parkton, driving back and forth from Towson to actually show up at your community organization's meetings in Dundalk, etc., it makes a lot more sense that they either be given a car or be reimbursed for that travel. If the county feels it's cheaper to just let them use a county car than to pay them 55 cents a mile, or whatever, then that's a wise way to use public funds. Count it as a necessary evil 1) if you want people on the council who aren't necessarily wealthy or willing to take a vow of poverty and 2) if you want them to actually be able to get out into the community without having to decide whether your small organization is "worth" the trip. Either way, it's not a regular commuter job for sure.
M. Sullivan February 28, 2013 at 01:59 PM
K Blue, did Marks not know what his salary would be before he ran for office? Sounds like poor planning to me.
FIFA February 28, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Raven, you need to go look up some civil law. If you are driving on work related business and have an accident in your car your employer can be sued. "Under common law employers are responsible for the actions of their employees. Employers must be sure that their policies provide coverage for "non-owned" and "hired" autos. The company is then protected if an employee causes and accident. If an employer does not own any vehicles "hired and non-owned" auto liability insurance is needed to provide the coverage outlined above. " http://www.scottsimmonds.com/article-employee-auto/index.php?PHPSESSID=1b5fa46f8a2ac02fc966d11ac441fb1b You stand corrected.
K Blue February 28, 2013 at 04:12 PM
M., I assume that he did know the salary. From this article, it appears that he had an 8-year old car that broke down after logging thousands of miles. Perhaps he underestimated the amount of wear and tear he would put on that car as a councilman driving to and from locations as part of his job. Perhaps the comprehensive zoning and other neighborhood issues put him out in the community more than he thought it would. Perhaps the job is more fulltime than part-time and outside employment isnt an option for him as it is for some other councilpersons. I am just guessing though. I drive a 2002 car. I fully expect to get at least another 5 years out of it.
Victor Lustig February 28, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Getting 5 more years out a 2002 vehicle is quite reasonable. It just requires the proper management of a resource.
Raven February 28, 2013 at 05:41 PM
No County employee is allowed to use a County car for private use and neither the Executive nor the Council should be allow to do this either.
Bill Howard March 01, 2013 at 01:13 AM
@MC you are so filled with hate. Marks has a long history of keeping his word. He promise to be visable and attend events in the district. Thus, you see the councilman whenever something important is going on. As a result, he wore out his wheels he worked so much. This guy puts in 12-16 hour days quite a bit. But you hate him. David Marks will not abuse the car the way others have. Be glad you have this guy doing the county business.
MD Fan March 01, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Oh, the intoxication (no pun on Huff) of power. It is so common, and has been an issue for as long as humans have organized. A person becomes a leader, the sudden 'importance' feeds their ego, they begin to feed themselves on the perks of the position, and before you know it, the seduction is complete. It happens more than it doesn't. I am sure Marks and Huff and others have come into office full of grand ideas about 'change' and than begin to convince themselves that maybe they were 'wrong' about certain changes. I know Huff also campaigned against the use of the county owned cars because the incumbent, McIntyre, had wrecked a few. So they are hypocrites, but did we really, deep down expect this new crop to be that much different? I do commend Mr. Quirk, who's district does NOT include the county seat, and probably has to do some of the farthest driving from his home to Towson. In any event, we can vote this group out, change the laws of county owned cars, but I guarantee a new group will come into the office, and the whole cycle of the seduction of power will begin again, and they will avail themselves to whatever perks they can, and compromise their initial positions in order to survive - reelection - which means money - which means developers . At least with Marks, the man does work. You may not agree with everything he does, but you can't criticize him for being lazy. But in my opinion, acting outraged by a politicians' hypocrisy, is a form of hypocrisy itself!
Bob Hurley March 01, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Marks is a hypocrite and flips and flops all the time. He said when he ran that he would not accept a County car, now he takes one. He said he wouldn't accept developer contributions and now he has $120,000 in his campaign treasury with all developer dollars. Look it up at Maryland Campaign Finance Database.
chadtiberon March 02, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Sad as it is,the negative comments made by so many of your readers,are the very reasons good people do not run for public office.Mr. Marks gave up a very good salary with the Federal government to seek the councilmanic office being vacated by Gardina.A great federal nine to five position ... no nightly visits to community meetings, listening to citizen complaints,innumerable meetings with constitutents... and with restrictions imposed by the County Charter,no opportunity to be employed in any way with the feds,state or county agency.Don't forget... the County Council is a part time position.Anyone familiar with the position is fully aware it that it cannot be done on a part time basis ..This councilperson takes the job seriously. Any one of those complaining about his voting record ,or the county car, are free to give up their jobs to seek one paying far less,taking considerable time away from the family,and run for the office.This guy has done a terrific job,and deserves re election.op your whinning.
John Doe March 03, 2013 at 12:37 AM
You can disagree with an issue/position but still vote for the person.
Bruce Kahl March 03, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Tom, you are correct. After reviewing travel expenses it probably cost effective to provide a car. BUT, travel expenses would limit it to official business only. Providing a car does not.
moe green March 03, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Bring back : Dale Anderson. At least he kept the long arm of the federal government out of baltimore county
Tom Sharp March 03, 2013 at 08:26 PM
That it should be limited to official business is a given. They obviously should not be using the car to run weekend errands. That's a matter of policing their use and their fear of getting pulled over, spotted by the citizens/media, or in an accident while driving it in those situations.
Bill Howard March 04, 2013 at 12:40 AM
TTMcBean is a very bitter person. Maybe he has no friends?
Bill Howard March 04, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Shame we can't have a REAL NAMES policy. I stand by what I say and but my name and face to it.


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