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.
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.