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Commerce Mayor Pro Tem Tried to Cover Up Illegal Use of City Vehicle

Commerce Mayor Tina Baca Del RIo

Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio

 

By Brian Hews

Last week a Hews Media Group-Community News investigation revealed that current Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio was once again abusing the city’s Vehicle Use Policy (VUP) collecting a $500 monthly allowance while continuing to use the city’s vehicle for official and personal use.

When informed the article was to be published, Baca Del Rio sent a threatening email to HMG-CN saying, “I have just read your email to me with false accusations of my use of the city vehicle.  I am not using the city vehicle and collecting a $500 stipend. You’re statements are false, and furthermore, if you continue to write slanderous and accusatory statements about me, I will seek legal action against you.  You also claim to have pictures of “the vehicle” in my driveway. Please present the pictures of proof to me with dates showing that I have used the city vehicle, and received a stipend in violation of our current car policy.

Baca Del Rio was sent the picture last week, and asked if she was receiving the $500 allowance, but never responded to either question. She was asked again to respond yesterday, but at the time of this publication she had not replied.

Since the article published, several Commerce residents have told HMG-CN that Baca Del Rio has been seen in the city driving her mini-van instead of the city car.

Based on the several instances where Baca Del Rio was seen driving the city car, HMG-CN also requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, the sign in and out logs for city vehicles as mandated in Commerce’s VUP from October 2014 to present.

Commerce transportation Direct Claude McFerguson told HMG-CN that, “we have no records (sign-in sheets) showing the Councilmembers checking out a vehicle during that time period (of Oct. 2014 to the present).”

The statement from McFerguson is strong evidence that Bacal Del Rio is now in violation of two areas of the VUP and attempted to cover the violations up by not signing the city vehicle log when she took the car.

The VUP reads, “a sign-in and out log will be kept in the glove box of the vehicle, to record the use of the vehicle.  The vehicle log will be administered by the Transportation Department.  Council members will provide the date, time and purpose for the use of a City vehicle when it is signed out and the date and time the vehicle is returned to its designated parking stall in Transportation, or to the Council parking area at City Hall on Commerce Way at the end of the trip.”

The VUP states that an official can collect the $500 monthly allowance only if they use their own personal car for city business, an official cannot accept the $500 and use a city-owned car.

The lone exception to use of a city-owned car is when an official event is more than 75 miles from the city, then the official can use the car to travel to that event.

A public records request of Baca Del Rio’s council calendar of daily appointments showed all events well within the 75-mile range when HMG-CN documented the city car in Baca Del Rio’s driveway, thus violating the city’s VUP.