City Manager Dave Neely said Friday that he expects a directive he has issued regarding take-home vehicles for municipal employees will stand.
“It’s going to stand is all I can say,” Neely said Friday in a brief telephone interview. “I think we’re supported by a lot of folks.”
The directive becomes effective in January, and a copy of a letter that Neely sent stated that the new policy would affect all city departments. The city manager also indicated a willingness to offer employees who have been using take-home vehicles a marginal pay increase — 50 cents per hour — to help cover their additional expense.
Neely cited expense to the city for fuel, tires and mechanical repairs as reasons for the change. His instruction letter became public for a while last week, as part of a post on the Pawhuska Police Department’s Facebook page that has since been removed. Police Chief Nick Silva drew the Journal-Capital’s attention to the Facebook post while it was still in place.
The police department Facebook post, which shared Neely’s communication, criticized the change as counterproductive to police department operations.
“Pawhuska your community is about to drastically change,” the police department’s Facebook post said, in part. “Because of the following letter (from Neely) there is no way many of the officers who have given their all to make change in this town will stay.
“Take home cars are essential to law enforcement and recruitment,” the post said. “Since Chief Silva has taken over all officers hired have come with experience. Now you can expect 2 to 3 rookies at a cost of around 5K for CLEET a yr making rediculous traffic stops instead of making drug trafficking arrest and stolen property arrest.
“Our investigator will now have to drive to Pawhuska get her car then go to Tulsa for rape victims, our narcotics officer’s personal vehicle will now sit in plain sight behind the PD,” the post continued. “Our Chief of Police will no longer be able to respond to all of the emergencies that require admin in a timely manner, and his personal car will sit in plain view as well.”
Silva said late last week that he finds the change frustrating.
“For me, it’s just frustrating because our police department is being productive,” he said. Silva said he understood there might be a desire on the part of city councilors to have an executive session with himself and the city manager to talk about the issue.
“How do you have a SWAT team and the guys do don’t have their equipment with them?” Silva said, commenting on possible complications. He described take-home vehicles as “essential for recruitment” of experienced, talented officers.