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Proposed ban on driving Baltimore take-home vehicles outside the city will likely include exceptions

A proposed ban on Baltimore employees driving take-home vehicles outside the city is likely to be amended with numerous exceptions based on a preliminary discussion of the bill during a Baltimore City Council committee meeting Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Ryan Dorsey, is little more than 100 words as written and calls for a wholesale ban on taking city-owned vehicles outside city limits.

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“It takes a toll on our fleet to have city-owned vehicles driven excessive distances for basic commuting purposes,” Dorsey said Wednesday during a meeting of the Council’s Public Safety and Government Operations Committee.

“We have a number of city employees who are assigned vehicles that they drive to and from work every day for no express purpose other than it’s just nice for them to drive a vehicle that’s not their own,” he said.

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However, talks have been underway with City Administrator Chris Shorter to draft a number of exemptions to the bill, Dorsey told members of the committee. While a complete amendment to the bill has yet to be circulated, Shorter said proposed exemptions include:

  • Employees who work outside city limits, a case most prevalent in the city’s Department of Public Works where meter shop employees maintain a water system that includes both the city and Baltimore County;
  • Travel required while on duty, such as meetings outside the city to discuss mutual aid arrangements for emergency services;
  • Officers with an on-call status if they live within 30 miles of the city;
  • Vehicles included in existing contracts or leases that were assigned during an employee’s appointment to a position.

Dorsey said he envisioned the bill as written to be a “base line.” Legitimate exceptions have been discussed, he said, citing the city’s Environmental Police as an example. Their jurisdiction is technically the watershed, he said, not the city.

“Those are the kinds of conversations we’re having to make sure exemptions to the overall rule are not overly broad,” Dorsey said.

Shorter said he has also requested some “flexibility” for exceptions in the bill that could be approved by his office to give the government “agility” when hiring.

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Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, a co-sponsor on the bill, asked Shorter to clarify.

“I would hate to have what would be a loophole or a lack of clarity and vagueness in the policy that doesn’t really hit on the intent of the sponsor,” Burnett said.

“As a government and representing a government, we are constantly in the recruitment mode,” Shorter said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a position where we’re saying to a potential executive or commissioner candidate that we do not have a flexibility at all to negotiate a new contract.”

The committee did not vote on the bill Wednesday. Discussions were recessed until a later date.

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