Dade Co. sheriff on blast for taking county car on vacation
A North Georgia sheriff is in hot water with some taxpayers who are upset he used a county car on a personal trip to Florida.
Dade County officials say they're swamped with complaints about Sheriff Ray Cross driving his county vehicle to take his family on a vacation to Panama City, Florida for a week.
Dade County commissioners say they learned about the sheriff's trip, after someone in his family posted a video on Facebook of them driving to Florida in his county-issued SUV. The video spread, and the complaints started pouring in. The sheriff isn't denying he took it. He says he legally had the right. Others argue it's unethical.
"He didn't violate the law. There's no law, it's just kind of a common sense thing as far as the way we look at it," Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said.
Rumley says at first he was in disbelief when calls started coming in. They claimed Sheriff Ray Cross took his nearly $40,000 2013 Ford Explorer on vacation. SPLOST money paid for the SUV earlier this year. The sheriff admits he did drive it to the beach.
"In my opinion it was bad judgement with the economy we're in and furloughing and all that we're gong through trying to make ends meet," Dade County Commissioner Robert Goff said.
County records show Sheriff Cross filled up on gas at the road department the Saturday he left, with 9,909 miles on it, then again the next Saturday with 1,004 more miles on it.
Sheriff Cross released a statement, laying out his reasons. He stated that he was on-call and handled department business while gone, he paid for gas out of pocket, and that if he was called back for an emergency, it would've been quicker and cheaper than flying on the county's dime.
"Taxpayers look at it differently because they're the ones that pays the bills," Goff said.
Many complain it's unnecessary wear and tear on the new vehicle.
"Taking it off county lines, I don't think that should be allowed,' Dade County resident Jacob Hunt said.
The sheriff stated, "I didn't feel this to be a violation of the county or state laws." He's right about that, but goes on to say, "because of the concerns of the citizens, I will drive my personal vehicle to any further personal trips that are not related to the office of sheriff."
"I don't think it'll ever happen again, I'll put it that way," Rumley said.
To ensure that, the county commission is adding a policy to the books that clearly states county vehicles can't be used on personal trips.
Some others feel the whole thing's been blown out of proportion.
"I think there's more in this county that needs addressed other than the sheriff taking his car to Florida," Dade County resident Carolyn Raper said.
Something else Sheriff Cross said, was that former Dade County sheriffs also took their county cars on vacations. Rumley says he's called up some former sheriff's and they've assured him they never did that.
The Dade County Commission will be addressing the new policy at the next meeting September 5th.