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Commerce Councilmember Abusing City’s Vehicle Use Policy

Baca car in driveway

The city’s Chevy Impala (left) assigned to Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio sits outside her home. This picture was taken on a Saturday afternoon. HMG-CN observed several other instances of the car in Baca Del Rio’s driveway at odd hours and days.

By Brian Hews

In May of 2012, the City Council passed a car policy that was very specific, stipulating that the cars could only be used for city business including “attendance at local and regional meetings, appointments, or events involving business affecting the city, meetings or appointments of various boards and/or agencies of which the City is a member.”

The policy stated, “a sign in and out log, along with the keys for the vehicle, will be maintained by Administration Staff. Councilmembers are to provide the date, time, and purpose for the use of the vehicle, and also sign back in when they return the car. They are to return the car immediately after the event, if it is a late event, the car can and must be returned in the morning.”

At the end of the vehicle use policy, the document specifically states, “the vehicles are not to be used for personal business.”

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained documents that show the Commerce City Council changed the more stringent May city car policy to a much more lenient car policy only three months after the May policy was passed.

One high-level source in the city who did not want to be identified told HMG-CN that the abuse of the car policy by certain council-members got so bad that the Administration Staff felt conflicted, citing the abuse by council-members and asked the city administrator to change the policy.

Longtime activist Mike Alvarado told HMG CN, “Mayor Baca Del Rio is the main abuser. Everybody in town knows Baca Del Rio never takes her city car back to the lot, it is outside her house 24/7. She has the car all the time, and blatantly drives it all over town to Costco and out to dinner while not on city business.”

Based on Alvarado’s assertion, along with several other residents who complained, HMG-CN drove by Baca Del Rio’s house several times over the past few weeks and viewed the Chevy Impala in the driveway at every instance.

Gas records obtained from the city via the Freedom of Information Act also show Baca Del Rio using the most gas out of the five Council-members.

The new less stringent policy, which became effective August 31, 2012 said, “the objective of this memorandum is to provide a process so the policy can be administered in a simple and effective manner.”

It went on, “each member is assigned a vehicle, and the signing in and out policy will not be necessary. The vehicle will be assigned a parking spot and can be accessed day or night.”

The document did not mention or override the use of the car for business or personal reasons.

Alvarado said, “can you imagine a city not watching who takes the city car out? Any of the councilmembers can throw the keys to a family member to use the car because no one is watching them. The abuse right now is rampant.”