Council approves changes to vehicle policy

Vehicles are only for city business

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Washougal elected officials may not use city automobiles unless they are traveling to conferences, seminars, training programs or other city-related business trips.

The Washougal City Council has amended a chapter in the city’s personnel policies, to include language that prohibits the assignment of take home vehicles to elected officials.

Questions were raised about the auto usage policy after Mayor Sean Guard used a city-owned vehicle for personal reasons. He returned a vehicle to the city’s surplus fleet on Jan. 3. It had been assigned to him in the early part of 2010.

The council’s vote on Jan. 18 was 6 to 1, with Dave Shoemaker voting against the amendments to the city vehicle policy.

“We are chasing a gnat with a sledgehammer,” he said. “It is unnecessary.”

Guard was stopped by a State Patrol trooper on Dec. 24, along I-5 near Kelso. The trooper responded to a dispatch issued after someone called 911 about a person who was using emergency lights in order to get slower traffic to move out of the left lane.

Guard said the car – a 1995 Ford Taurus previously driven by former Police Chief Bob Garwood – does not have emergency lights. He said he was alternating between the use of no front lights to high beams to get the attention of drivers who were traveling in front of him at speeds lower than the speed limit.

The State Patrol has referred the case to the Cowlitz County Prosecutor’s Office to review for possible charges.

Guard was a Camas reserve police officer for approximately five years in the 1980s. At the time of the traffic stop, he was traveling to the South Tacoma area on a day trip unrelated to city business.